Aurora tanker crew safe after approach by skiffs in Gulf of Aden

Tradewinds on Feb. 25th carried the above headline, following two suspicious approaches in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 20th and 22nd.

On Feb. 20th, a merchant vessel reported a suspicious approach by three skiffs at 1824 UTC in the vicinity of the IRTC, SE of Al Mukalla, Yemen. The skiffs approached to within 1nm. No piracy equipment was reportedly sighted in this incident.

On Feb. 22nd, UKMTO state that another merchant vessel reported a suspicious approach by 11 skiffs with 4-5 persons on board, near Djibouti at the western end of the Gulf of Aden. Ladders were reportedly sighted in the skiffs and the vessel’s armed security team fired warning shots to deter any further approach. Both vessels are now described as safe.

While not confirmed as piracy incidents, the reports come in the wake of suggestions by some analysts that armed security teams are become less necessary in the Indian Ocean. However, ongoing instability in the Red Sea and off Yemen in the Gulf of Aden continue to present a significant risk to merchant shipping, with the Saudi Arabian coalition reporting the interception of a suspected Houthi SVBIED (boat bomb) in the Red Sea over the weekend of Feb. 22-23.

As is often stated, pirates or other threat actors only need to be successful once. The maritime industry needs to remain vigilant and avoid complacency in order to ensure smooth passage in the region. Adherence to BMP 5 should be maintained and Masters entering the region must contact UKMTO to inform them.

SA Navy Op Copper deployments valuable for commerce and security

Mozambique Channel

Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman is a firm believer in the dictum “you cannot control what you can’t patrol” and to this end maintains SA Navy deployments to the Mozambique Channel should continue.

His observation comes at a time when the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is preparing a platform for a stint in the waterway which carries much of South Africa’s seaborne goods and services.

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Busy Weekend for CTF 150. Impressive Drug Seizure for HMS Montrose

Starting on Valentine’s Day, ships working in direct support of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) had a busy weekend, the result of which was a major drug bust by Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) MONTROSE, a United Kingdom Royal Navy (RN) frigate.

In the late afternoon of 15 February, MONTROSE’s ‘WILDCAT’ shipborne helicopter spotted a suspicious dhow in an area of the Gulf of Oman known to be popular with drug smugglers.

As the sun rose over the Arabian Sea on the morning of 16 February, several packages could be seen floating in the water near the dhow. The packages were recovered and determined to be hashish. Royal Marine Commandos then boarded the dhow, securing it for search by a Royal Navy boarding team.

The master of the dhow admitted that the packages in the water came from his vessel, and after a thorough search of the dhow, the team found another cache of hashish. Add that to the drugs recovered from the water, and MONTROSE’s total seizure of hashish was 1045kg worth an estimated regional wholesale value of $538,860 U.S. dollars.

This is the first seizure for HMS MONTROSE while working in direct support of the Australian lead CTF 150. The Royal Australian Navy, with support staff from the Royal Canadian, and Royal New Zealand navies assumed command of CTF 150 in early December 2019.

“Fantastic work by the crew of HMS MONTROSE in tracking this smuggler, stopping them from ditching their cargo, and keeping these drugs from reaching their destination,” said Commodore Ray Leggatt, Royal Australian Navy, Commander of CTF 150. “With the support of ships like COURBET and MONTROSE, CTF 150 continues to apply pressure and disrupt the operations of terrorist and criminal organisations in the region that seek to use the maritime domain for their illegitimate trade.”

Denying the use of the maritime domain to illegitimate traffic in the region is CTF 150’s mission. The cooperation and support of CMF participating nations like France and the United Kingdom are the key mission enablers that CTF 150 relies on to carry out the mission. The 33 nations of CMF, working together, improves maritime security, helps strengthen regional nations’ maritime capabilities, and upholds international norms and today’s bust is just the latest example of that cooperation in action.


Kenya to combat drug trafficking through review of private jetties

HMS Defender and drugs haul

(Xinhua) — Kenya plans to combat international drug trafficking and smuggling of contraband goods through the review, vetting and registration afresh of the nearly 700 private jetties and landing sites across the country, a government official said on Wednesday.

Fred Matiang’i, Cabinet Secretary of Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security, told a forum in Mombasa that he was in consultation with his Transport counterpart James Macharia in a bid to review and register afresh all the jetties and landing sites, especially at the Indian Ocean coast.

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Indian Coast Guard arrests ‘pirates’

The Times of India reports today (Feb. 20th) that up to nine thieves boarded the MV Al-Marjo around eight nautical miles off the Pipavav coast on Wednesday 19th. Reportedly, the vessel was heading for a breakers yard when the group boarded her via a tug.

The ship’s crew sent a distress call and the Indian Coast Guard responded, with a patrol arresting the group and seizing their vessel. The matter has now been handed over to the local marine police.


South Korea: Navy chief to visit unit dispatched to Strait of Hormuz

Persian Gulf/SoH

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Sim Seung-seob will embark on a trip to Oman and Thailand next week and visit an anti-piracy unit deployed to the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said Friday.

The six-day visit, which will kick off Sunday, is aimed at boosting maritime security cooperation with the two countries and supporting South Korea’s broader pitch to expand exchanges with Southeast Asia, it said.

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U.S. warship in Arabian Sea seizes suspected Iranian weapons

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy warship seized weapons believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture,” including 150 anti-tank guided missiles and three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, the American military said on Thursday.

In a statement, the military said the guided-missile cruiser Normandy boarded a dhow, a traditional sailing vessel, in the Arabian Sea on Sunday.

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MarsecNews: USNI has uploaded video of the incident: