Sri Lanka- Head of Avant-Garde’s Maritime Security Division arrested

(MENAFN – Colombo Gazette) The head of Avant-Garde’s Maritime Security Division, Vishwajith Nandana Diyabalanage, was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) today.

He was arrested when he returned to the country from Singapore. Diyabalanage was wanted over ongoing investigations into Avant-Garde.

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Private armed guards not allowed onboard vessels in Nigeria –Navy

Maritime Security News: Not entirely sure why they feel the need to restate this policy.

The Nigerian Navy has disclosed that private armed guards are still not permitted on merchant vessels in Nigeria. Rear Admiral, Begroy Enyinna Ibe-Enwo, representing the Chief of Naval Staff, confirmed this last week at the West Africa Shipping Summit in London, as part of highlight of events at the London International Shipping Week.

At the event, both NIMASA and the Navy acknowledged the challenges in securing the Nigerian maritime domain and affirmed the collaboration between both organisations to stem the incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea.

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AG files indictment against 13 in Avant-Garde high seas arms trafficking case

The Attorney General’s Department yesterday filed indictment in the Avant-Garde High Seas Arms Trafficking case before a Trial-At-Bar against 13 persons including Avant-Garde Maritime Services Ltd. (AGMS) Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi.

A total of 7,573 charges were filed by the AG under the Fire Arms Ordinance as well as the Penal Code for illegally operating a merchant vessel ship and carrying 813 unlicensed automatic weapons and 200,935 rounds of live ammunitions on board the Ship MV Avant-Garde in and around October 2015.

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Gulf of Guinea must look east to solve its pirate problem

Why has piracy off Somalia’s coast plummeted while in West Africa pirates remain undefeated?


A few years ago piracy off the east coast of Africa, focusing on Somalia, was a major crisis, attracting extensive international attention. Now it has plummeted. Meanwhile across the continent in the Gulf of Guinea, the piracy problem, which never attracted quite the same attention, has persisted at much the same high levels.

The reasons are numerous, though the greater prioritisation of Western Indian Ocean sea routes to the international community is probably near the heart of it. Another reason seems to be the relatively greater capacity of individual West African states to fight piracy.

Pirate attacks off Somalia’s coast have dropped dramatically over the past eight years – from 237 incidents in 2011 to nine in 2017 and just three attempted attacks in 2018, Denys Reva reported in a June ISS Today article.

So much so that the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has started discussing broadening the group’s mandate to include combating other maritime security problems like trafficking. This complements similar changes occurring in other prominent maritime security initiatives such as the Djibouti Code of Conduct.

By contrast, on 8 July this year the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB-PRC) said the seas around West Africa remained ‘the world’s most dangerous for piracy.’ Of the 75 seafarers taken hostage on board or kidnapped for ransom worldwide so far this year, 62 were captured in the Gulf of Guinea – off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon. 

The bureau said 73% of all kidnappings at sea, and 92% of hostage takings, happened in the Gulf of Guinea. It nonetheless notes ‘a welcome and marked decrease’ in attacks in the gulf for the second quarter of 2019, commending the Nigerian navy in particular for actively responding to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats. While recognising that many attacks go unreported, the maritime bureau recorded 21 incidents around Nigeria so far in 2019, down from 31 in the same period of 2018.

Timothy Walker, Senior Researcher and specialist in maritime issues at the Institute for Security Studies, says however that despite the improvement recorded by the IMB-PRC, the general incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea seems to have remained fairly constant over the past decade.

He suggests this is because the high seas off Somalia generally carry shipping heading to and from the Suez Canal and linking the huge markets of Europe, India and East Asia. They are also of greater global interest as they carry ships of almost every flag state and generally of greater size.

While there is also a huge volume of international shipping in the Gulf of Guinea, most attacks are happening in territorial waters, against localised shipping to and from West Africa. Because of this geographic difference, a larger international operation was mobilised to counter Somali-based piracy, pulling in powerful navies from the United States, China, Russia, India and France, among others, and notably the European Union’s Operation Atalanta.

These nations have coordinated their efforts through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and the Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) Conference. Their success seems to have been enhanced by natural competition among themselves for the greatest competence in combating piracy and projecting national maritime power. It was precisely the absence of a functioning national authority in relatively ungoverned Somalia that brought these international navies into the fight against piracy.

Walker notes that the many West African nations with shores on the Gulf of Guinea could better fight piracy through pooling their capacity and strengthening their law enforcement institutions. Such cooperation between and within the economic communities of West African States and Central African States is improving maritime security to a degree.

There is also an Interregional Coordination Centre in Yaoundé steering many of these efforts, complementing national and regional actions. But such efforts struggle with capacity shortages and the low political priority many governments still attach to maritime security.

One manifestation of the need for coordination is that while private security guards on ships have been an effective, albeit controversial, means to combat pirates off Somalia, this hasn’t worked in the Gulf of Guinea. Countries such as Nigeria insist on shipping companies manning their vessels with Nigerian naval teams in their national waters.

Another downside of the many different national jurisdictions fighting piracy in the west is that pirates can shift to different national maritime jurisdictions when one country steps up the pressure against them. This displacement of piracy could be a major factor in maintaining high overall piracy rates, Walker suggests.

He also notes that those fighting Somali piracy have been able to institutionalise their efforts more effectively than their Gulf of Guinea counterparts. However the institutions in the west are working as well as their member states empower them to, he says.

Reva notes that companies sailing off Somalia have together developed effective safety guidelines for ships travelling through a well-defined High Risk Area. For example, ships navigating through the region are urged to increase their speed and install protective systems on board. They are also asked to follow the protected Maritime Security Transit Corridor, making it harder for pirates to attack. These guidelines were key to bringing down piracy off Somalia’s coast, Reva said.

Another difference is the east’s legal approach. Walker says at the height of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean many were caught off Somalia and brought to court in countries such as Kenya and the Seychelles. They were then incarcerated in Somalia itself or its semi-autonomous Puntland region to be prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. This has been a strong deterrent to piracy in the east.

By contrast there is little record of incarceration, prosecution or conviction of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, he says. Through this ‘lack of legal finish’, as Walker puts it, the west is missing an opportunity to visibly deter piracy.

Overall, the problem in the east has now become how to avoid complacency in the face of success. In the west, the problem remains the need to reduce the incidence of piracy. It would seem that greater regional coordination – if necessary with international assistance, including guidance from those who have succeeded on the other side of the continent – is called for.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant


Commercial ships warned against using private armed security in the Gulf

Shipping associations issue advice after a series of attacks blamed on Iran

Shipping companies sailing through the Arabian Gulf are being urged to avoid having private armed security guards on board as the risk of escalation in the region rises.

Relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar last week and London said its warship HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels seeking to block a British-owned tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

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Gulf of Oman oil tanker attacks fuel maritime security demand

Maritime security firms have seen demand soar following the attacks on oil tankers on June 13. But defending ships from allegedly involved state-backed forces such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard may not be easy.

Author Ashutosh Pandey

The demand for private maritime security personnel has shot up since the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, as shippers step up efforts to protect their ships and keep global trade going.

The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, which took place near the Strait of Hormuz, which is used to transport a third of the world’s seaborne crude. Iran has denied the accusations.

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Gulf of Oman attacks prompt rise in armed guard requests

The Financial Times reports that the recent incidents in the Gulf of Oman have seen a rise in calls to maritime security companies by concerned shipping firms.

Since the attacks on the Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous, shipping companies who transit the region on a regular basis have been looking into additional protection for their vessels. During the height of Somali piracy in the region, it was the norm for the merchant marine to employ teams of armed guards in order to deter any potential attack, and it worked. No merchant vessel with armed guards has ever been hijacked in the Indian Ocean. That, combined with more aggressive and visible patrolling by the international naval forces present in the region, has seen the issue of piracy off Somalia reduce considerably since 2012.

The current threat, believed to be from Iran’s IRGC – an accusation denied by Iran – is leading to an increase in demand for armed protection services, a sector which has suffered considerably from rate cuts and an influx of cheaper personnel in recent years.

The main UK Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC), such as Ambrey Risk and MAST report an increase in demand from previous and prospective clients keen to ensure the safety of their ships in the region.

While a team of armed guards is no match for the IRGC, even an unarmed security detail can offer additional security. Well trained guards on Watch duties can spot threats that crew might miss or dismiss as the local pattern of life and, while engaging hostile state actors is unlikely, they can offer the Master an early warning system that he may lack.

With the situation in the region fluid, it’s possible that a convoy escort programme, similar to that used in the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden may be adopted, with support from the US Navy. Russia, China, South Korea and Japan’s MSDF have all run escorts through the Gulf of Aden, and a multi-national force may be more palatable to states bordering Iran.

However, nothing has been officially announced, leaving the shipping industry scrambling to come up with its own solutions, as is so often the case. The threat posed to vessels in the region continues to be real and the situation dangerous for crews.