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Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

West Africa

Benin: Pirates attack merchant vessel 55 nm off Cotonou

2 January

A merchant vessel reported that it came under attack at 0101 hrs local time 55 nm south of Cotonou. Further details of the incident were not immediately disclosed.

PGI Analysis: There is a significant threat of piracy in the waters off Benin. Its shared maritime and land borders with Nigeria – the main source of piracy in the region – heighten the likelihood that vessels could encounter criminals who have crossed into Beninese waters looking to kidnap seafarers.

Select Maritime News

Chile: Port workers threaten to resume strike action in Valparaiso

27 December

Port workers said that they will resume strike action due to port management company TPS failing to comply with a previous agreement. On 21 December, TPS agreed to pay bonuses and other financial benefits to port workers to end a 35-day strike, but a union representing the workers said that TPS failed to pay the financial rewards. TPS representatives contested the union’s claim, saying that 99 percent of the agreed bonuses were paid albeit with some delay. The strike action severely disrupted port operations in Valparaiso and the dispute between port management and workers led to several violent protests in the city.

China: Cargo ship sinks off Zhejiang, killing one

2 January

One person has been confirmed dead and 10 remain missing after a Taiwanese cargo ship sank off the coast of Zhejiang Province, according to local maritime rescue authorities. Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported the cargo ship, with 15 people on board, sank at around 0430 hrs local time around 90 nm off the coast of Yuhuan of Zhejiang’s Taizhou city. Four people have reportedly been rescued and the authorities are continuing the search for the missing crew.

Colombia: Customs seize 126 kg of cocaine at Santa Marta port

28 December

Customs authorities seized 126 kg of cocaine concealed in a refrigerated container at the port of Santa Marta in northern Colombia. The container was due to be shipped to Antwerp according to a local police source. Authorities regularly seize large quantities of domestically produced cocaine at Colombian ports.

Germany: Storm Zeetja causes flooding in Meckleburg-Vorpommern

2 January

Heavy rains and winds caused by storm Zeetja led to flooding in Meckleburg-Vorpommern region. The cities affected included Rostock, Warnemünde and Wismars, while winds and fallen trees caused travel delays and disruption across the region. There were no initial reports of casualties from the storm. In Wismar, water levels rose to over 1.8 m over sea level, local media sources reported. The storm also caused disruption to freight shipping in the North Sea, with at least one cargo ship losing 30 containers off the coast of Bremerhaven.

Kuwait: Authorities suspend port activity due to weather

3 January

Kuwait’s port authority halted shipping at Shuwaikh, Doha and Shuaiba ports because of poor weather. Strong winds, high waves and poor visibility were expected to persist for several hours at least. It was not clear when port operations would resume.

Lebanon: Authorities detain 24 Cyprus-bound migrants in Abdeh

31 December

Authorities detained 23 Syrian nationals and a Lebanese citizen who were about to board a vessel to attempt to reach Cyprus. The migrants were detained at Sheikh Zinad beach in the northern town of Abdeh. Attempted departures of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to Cyprus have increased in recent months amid poor economic conditions and a push by Lebanese authorities to repatriate Syrians.

Malta: Valletta allows rescue ships to access national waters

3 January

The Maltese government allowed German rescue NGO ships Sea Watch and Sea Eye to access its territorial waters to shelter from storms on the Mediterranean. The ships have been at sea since 22 December, when they rescued 32 migrants from capsized boats. Italian and Maltese authorities have since refused to allow the ships to dock at their ports. The Maltese announcement came after the Netherlands announced that they were prepared to take in some of the migrants, three of which are children. According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 1,300 migrants died attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe in 2018.

Morocco: Navy rescues 367 migrants off northern coast

27 December

The navy rescued 367 migrants off the country’s northern coast. The mostly sub-Saharan migrants had been trying to reach Spain when their vessels ran into trouble at sea. Migrant departures from Morocco towards Spain have increased in 2018 as other transit countries have stepped up anti-human trafficking measures.

Tunisia: Coast guard rescues 45 migrants off Kerkennah

30 December

The coast guard said it had rescued 45 migrants off the eastern islands of Kerkennah. The migrants, who had departed from Libya and were bound for Europe, found themselves in distress after their vessel broke down. There has been a spike in the number of arrests of migrants attempting to reach European shores through Tunisia in 2018.

Tunisia: Customs seize 14 rifles at Tunis port

30 December

Customs officers seized 14 hunting rifles at Tunis’s La Goulette port. The weapons were seized aboard a vehicle belonging to a Tunisian national residing in an unnamed foreign country. The rifles were hidden in an air conditioning unit. Tunisia experiences high levels of smuggling.

Turkmenistan: OSCE provides training on port security

28 December

More than 25 seaport security and law enforcement officials completed a five-day training course on port security procedures in December. The course was organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Centre in Ashgabat and was held at the Turkmenbashi International Seaport on the Caspian Sea. Experts from the UK and the US reportedly provided instruction on maritime security and border control, highlighting key examples of transnational threats at marine borders such as drug trafficking, piracy and maritime terrorism.

United States: Crew abandon vessel due to fire near Hawaii

31 December

Several crew members of a car carrier vessel were forced to abandon ship due to a fire about 3,333 km northwest of Hawaii. The fire reportedly engulfed a large part of the vessel forcing 21 crew members to abandon ship on a life raft. Seventeen other crew members remained aboard the vessel to fight the fire. US Coast Guard dispatched rescue ships to the scene and other commercial vessels nearby reportedly assisted with the rescue operations. It remains unclear how the fire started.

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Source: Protection Vessels International Ltd

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