Ruling delayed in Seychelles top court on whether case should be dismissed against 5 suspected Somali pirates

Only three out of the five Somali suspects appeared in court on Monday while the other two are receiving medical assistance. (Rassin Vannier)

By: Salifa Karapetyan Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame

(Seychelles News Agency) – Five Somali nationals suspected of piracy will be held an additional 14 days and reappear before the Seychelles Supreme Court on December 10 for a decision on whether the case should be dismissed.

Justice Gustave Dodin was supposed to give a ruling on Friday but according to the lawyer representing the Somalis, Joel Camille, “the judge has asked for some more time so that he can conclude the ruling.”

“When the prosecution had called all its witnesses, we submitted a ‘no case to answer’, which means that we told the court that the prosecution does not have enough evidence against the Somali nationals so the charges should be dismissed and they should be released,” said Camille.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta transferred the five suspects to Seychellois authorities after responding to piracy attacks on April 21 last year.

The suspects were transported by Spanish flagship ESPS Navarra and transferred to Seychellois authorities in accordance with a transfer agreement between the Seychelles and the European Union with support from UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The incident began on April 19, 2019 when five suspected pirates captured a Yemeni dhow off the coast of Somalia. Two days later the pirates attacked the Korean fishing vessel Adria with the dhow acting as a mothership in the Indian Ocean some 280 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

The case which started on September 9 was to be heard for a month but due to restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, witnesses form Spain were unable to physically appear in court to give their evidence; the process was carried out via videolink. Seychellois witnesses from the police force physically appeared before the court to give their evidence.

To ensure that the legal process is fair, a representative of the UNODC has been present during the case hearings. Her duty was also to look after the welfare of the accused.

Camille said that the ruling might have been pushed to a later date due to an increase in workload as the year is coming to an end.

“Judge Dodin gave us a guarantee that on December 10 he will give his ruling. I feel that the court will rule in my favour as I am still convinced that the evidence presented were not enough against the Somali national and the court will dismiss the case against them,” said Camille.

Seychelles is east of the Somali coast and has placed itself at the forefront of the fight against piracy since 2005 when the scourge began expanding, adversely impacting the nation’s tourism and fishing industries, the top pillars of its economy. The island nation in the western Indian Ocean has since then been working with international partners to apprehend and prosecute suspected Somali pirates.

Somaliland and Seychelles signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the transfer of sentenced pirates in 2011. With special jurisdiction to handle piracy and maritime crime cases, Seychelles started hearing cases in June 2015.

Source: seychellesnewsagency.com

Maritime surveillance network to safeguard Indian waters

Shirish Nadkarni

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and French agency CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) have forged an alliance to set up a network of satellites for maritime surveillance to help detect, identify and track ships in the Indian Ocean, in order to safeguard Indian waters from the unwanted attention of pirates and hostile ships.

This was revealed by Vice-Admiral Pradeep Chauhan in the course of his talk on ‘India as a Net Security Provider – Indian Ocean Region and Beyond; Maritime Security and the Blue Economy’ during the concluding session of the two-day Inmex SMM Virtual Expo, last week.

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Source: seatrade-maritime.com

Yemeni officials repeat warnings over Safer oil tanker

Saeed Al-Batati

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthi’s use of naval mines and bomb boats, and the group’s resistance to maintaining the Safer tanker are serious threatens to international maritime traffic and ecological life in the Red Sea, senior Yemeni officials warned on Monday.

The officials repeated concerns about the collapse of the tanker, urging the international community to act now to avert a major disaster in the Red Sea.

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Source: arabnews.com

PMSA seizes huge quantity of hashish, arrests four

KARACHI – The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) arrested four drug traffickers and seized huge quantity of drugs during an operation conducted in open sea.

Addressing a news conference at the PMSA headquarters, Commander and Director (Public Relations) Usman Amjad of the Agency said that the PMSA intercepted a suspicious vessel in open sea, and during its checking recovered 1,372 kg of hashish on board and arrested four accused.

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Source: nation.com.pk

Saudi Arabia thwarts Houthi explosive bomb attack on oil facilities

File image of suspected Houthi SVBIED (boat bomb), via http://crfimmadagascar.org

Associated Press reported on Friday 13th November that Saudi officials had been quoted as saying that they had intercepted and thwarted an apparent attempt to disrupt oil supplies at an Aramco oil distribution centre in the Red Sea.

The report cites a Saudi Press Agency report which said:

“Coalition Navy Forces detected this evening (Wednesday, 11 November 2020) an attempt by the terrorist Houthi militia to carry out a hostile, terrorist act in Southern Red Sea using (2) bomb-laden Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) launched from Hodeida Governorate.

“The USVs, which pose a threat to regional and international security, Sea Lines of Communication and International Trade, were destroyed.”

The deployment of remote controlled ‘boat bombs’ is not a new one and al Houthis have demonstrated their effectiveness in the past. However, this is the second incident of SVBIED in recent weeks and should concern all shipping which transits the region.

Combined Maritime Forces seize over one tonne of hashish in drugs bust

Media Release

A French ship working in support of a Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) task force has seized over one tonne of hashish worth $8 million, 8 November 20.

Sailors on board French Ship Floréal, the lead Floréal-class frigate, captured the drugs from a suspicious vessel during a counter-narcotics operation in the Arabian Sea’s infamous ‘Hash Highway’.

The ship was operating in support of CMF’s Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) at the time of the seizure, which comes just weeks after a Royal Navy ship working as part of a CTF 150 operation intercepted over 450kg of methamphetamine.

“This seizure marks yet another successful drugs bust by CTF 150,” said the task force’s Commander, Rear Admiral Sulieman Alfakeeh of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. “With two successful drugs seizures in a matter of weeks, we are proving that we are a formidable force against drug smugglers, keeping millions of dollars of illegal substances off the streets.”

A team of French sailors conducted the boarding of the suspicious vessel, which was sailing along a route known for transiting drugs.

The one tonne haul of hashish was well-hidden on board the vessel and required an extensive search by the highly trained boarding team, made even more challenging by the threat of COVID.  The ship’s medical team was responsible for decontaminating all personnel and all equipment to ensure the safety of its personnel was maintained.

This drugs seizure marks another success in a long string of CMF activities; in addition to the historic Royal Navy methamphetamine seizure in October, last month the USS Winston S. Churchill assisted an Iranian-flagged motor vessel in distress while in support of CTF 150. In the last few days, the French Ship Jean Bart, alongside the Japanese Ship Ariake, operating under a CTF 151 tasking, provided the medical evacuation of an injured mariner.

“The Combined Maritime Forces is founded on a shared commitment to ensuring the safety of all legitimate mariners at sea,” said Commodore Dean Bassett Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. “Sometimes this involves assisting those in distress, and other times it targets those who seek to use the maritime environment to conduct illegal activities such as terrorism, smuggling and piracy.”

The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) is a multinational maritime partnership which exists to counter illicit non-state actors on the high seas, promoting security, stability and prosperity in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. CTF 150 operates to disrupt and deny criminal and terrorist organizations operating outside of the Arabian Gulf, to ensure that legitimate commercial shipping can transit the region, free from non-state threats. CTF 150 is currently led by the Royal Saudi Naval Force, the second time that the country’s Navy has led the task force.

CMF and Djibouti develop partnership to combat piracy

In a recent Zoom call, the commander of the Combined Task Force 151, Rear Admiral Nejat Inanir, spoke with the Head of the Djibouti Coastguard, Colonel Waiss Omar Bogoreh to discuss their continued partnership in conducting counter-piracy operations.

Rear Admiral Inanir thanked Colonel Bogoreh for his support in a recent counter piracy operation, Focused Operation Shamal. “It’s been a job really well done. Your assistance is very much appreciated,” said Rear Admiral Inanir. He also passed on a personal message of gratitude from the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) commander, Vice Admiral Samuel Paparo.

While Djibouti is not a member of CMF, CTF 151 regularly works closely with the nation’s Navy and Coastguard to support maritime security operations in the region, sharing information and informing merchant vessels transiting through their waters when military assets are working to protect the region’s shipping lanes nearby.

Colonel Bogoreh said: “We are always willing collaborate further with CMF. We have eight or nine years of a history of working together in what is a very successful relationship.”

Source: combinedmaritimeforces.com

Japanese warship concludes counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden

Media Release

After six months conducting counter piracy operations with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in the Gulf of Aden, the Japanese ship Ohnami prepares to return to her home port. 

The Takanami class destroyer has been working in support of the CMF’s Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a counter-piracy task force which is currently led by the Turkish Navy. 

During their six month deployment JS Ohnami has accompanied hundreds of merchant ships in convoys to safeguard them from pirate attacks as they transit through the Gulf of Aden. The ship has also participated in a number of focused operations to deter piracy activity as the weather becomes more favourable for the pirates to operate small quick skiffs.

“The JS Ohnami’s dedication and professionalism has been essential for successful counter piracy operations. Thank you very much for supporting CTF 151 in so many diverse ways,” said Rear Admiral Nejat Inanir, commander of CTF 151.

With such a vast area of operations to patrol, partnership is at the centre of counter piracy operations in the region. The ability to work with other nations, across multiple languages, during operations and exercises is key to is key to the success of CTF 151 in combating piracy activity in the High Risk Area. 

Led by Commander Ishidera, the Ohnami crew have also engaged in many Passing Exercises, proving their ability to operate with warships from many nations. These exercises involve sharing information between partner navies securely and effectively, a crucial part of combating piracy. 

As the JS Ohnami prepares to sail home from her successful deployment, the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force has handed over the baton to another destroyer, the JS Ariake, to continue the vital work to secure freedom of navigation of the millions of tons of merchant shipping that transits through the region annually.

Established in 2001, CMF comprises 33 member nations united by their desire to maintain maritime security by countering non-state actors who use the maritime environment to conduct illegal acts such as narcotics smuggling and piracy.

INTERNATIONAL COUNTER PIRACY OPERATION BLOWS THROUGH THE GULF OF ADEN

Media Release

With the monsoon season – which makes sea conditions favourable for smaller shipping vessels – over, a large multinational counter piracy operation has been conducted by the Combined Maritime Forces in the Gulf of Aden.

The operation, named Operation Shamal after the strong winds that blow from the north bringing sandstorms to the region, was designed to increase military patrolling in the area around the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa.

The area is of immense importance as the main shipping lane from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean passes through it. With the Monsoon diminishing and sea becoming favourable for sailors, there has been a large increase in the number of smaller fishing vessels, skiffs and dhows operating again, mainly closer to the coastlines of coastal states.

“Focused Operation Shamal was conducted to demonstrate to potential pirates and sponsors of piracy that there is a significant military force in the region that would deal with any attempted piracy attack,” said Combined Task Force 151’s (CTF 151) Operations officer, Lieutenant Commander Yoo Sanghun of the Republic of Korea Navy.

“We are also here to reassure our partners on merchant ships that despite the increase in small boat activity, the military is there to respond,” he added.

The Operation was an international affair, with support from CMF members Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, the United States and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force.

The Pakistan Navy ship Zulfiquar and the ROK ship Dae Jo Yeong drilled together during a Passing Exercise. The exercise is a testimony of the skills and professionalism of the respective navies and demonstrated their abilities to enhance interoperability at sea.

There was also a significant contribution from Djibouti and Oman, with Djibouti’s coastguard and the Royal Navy of Oman playing a vital part in contacting merchant vessels sailing through the area, alerting them to the presence of warships and gathering essential information about any suspicious activity they’d seen during their transit.

The UKMTO office in Dubai contributed to the operation, alerting merchant shipping to expect an increase in military activity, both visually and on VHF.

Military activity during the operation was not just limited to the sea; maritime patrol aircraft from both CMF and EU NAVFOR-participating countries contributed significantly to the operation, providing an overwatch right across the entire piracy High Risk Area. They identified potential piracy activity at an early stage, whether in the Somalian based known piracy camps or at sea.

“It is always pleasing when we are able to grow our capability by having so many countries operating closely together, whether it’s patrol aircraft and warships tactically maneuvering together or nation states coordinating their navies and coastguards to deliver freedom of navigation in a long term strategy,” said Rear Admiral Nejat Inanir of the Turkish Navy, Commander of CTF 151.

The region is in a state of transition between monsoon seasons; October is one of the busiest times for small fishing craft and dhows to operate and there will be an increase in small dhow traffic between the various ports on both sides of the Gulf of Aden. Merchant ships are encouraged to use the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), where they are less likely to have any interaction with the smaller fishing skiffs, which are occasionally mistaken for pirates.

Warships and maritime patrol aircraft continuously patrol the Gulf of Aden throughout the year, but will be particularly vigilant in these weather transition zones. It’s vital to protect world trade through vulnerable chokepoints. With the seafarer hostages being released by pirates earlier this month, it’s a key reminder that organisations including CMF’s CTF 151 play a fundamental role to deter piracy from interrupting the free passage of these crucial sea lanes.

“It’s been a very successful operation,” said Rear Admiral Nejat Inanir. “Operation Shamal has provided a timely reminder to the maritime community that there is an international effort to maintain the free flow of commerce, today and always.”