Seoul yet to decide on sending Cheonghae Unit to Strait of Hormuz

By Kim So-hyun

The Ministry of National Defense Ministry said Thursday that it has not yet decided on sending the anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit to the Strait of Hormuz in response to Washington’s request to forge a coalition against Iran’s military activities amid heightened tensions with Tehran.

“Sending (Cheonghae Unit) to the Strait of Hormuz has not been decided. … We are considering various ways to protect our vessels in the area, and are closely observing the situation,” the ministry said.

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Source: koreaherald.com

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Former Somali pirate hostage discusses ordeal

A Ghanaian mariner, Jewel Ahiagble, who worked on contract as an Electrical Engineer on a vessel which was hijacked by Somali pirates for about 1000 days in 2009, has survived narrowly to give a harrowing account of the voyage.

Opening up for the first time since the crew’s rescue in 2012, Mr. Ahiagble recounted the chilling tale of torture, violent abuses, deaths, anxiety and trauma to host Winston Amoah on the #RoadtoGlory segment of 3FM’s Sunrise.

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Source: ghanaweb.com

What’s the cost of piracy in West African waters?

The Gulf of Guinea has turned into one of the world’s most notorious piracy hotspots. Plus, why’s the gold price rising?

A decade ago, no ship was safe off the coast of Somalia; men armed with machine guns in small boats would target vessels, including aid ships from the World Food Programme.

The menace of piracy continues to plague the region, impeding its security and economic development. It is also increasing in the Gulf of Guinea, an area that covers 11,000 kilometres of coastline from Angola to Senegal.

Fishing boats are sometimes targeted but most attacks are carried out on oil and gas tankers.

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Source: aljazeera.com

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?

BY PETER FABRICIUS

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

Source: issafrica.org

Counter-Piracy Task Forces work together to deter piracy at sea

Warships from three nations have taken part in a counter-piracy surge operation, led by Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 in the Gulf of Aden. The operation was part of the Republic of Korea-led CTF 151’s mission to deter piracy and to contribute to wider maritime security in the region by focusing shared resources and assets over a prolonged period.

Collaboration between CTF 151, EUNAVFOR’s counter-piracy Task Force and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force ensured maximum response and support to the operation. A Japanese Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft also took part.

The ships ROKS Daejoyeong, ESPS Navarra and JS Asagiri worked together in conducting Maritime Awareness Calls to engage with local mariners and increase their understanding of the Combined Maritime Forces and CTF 151 role.

Captain Andrew Rose, Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of CTF151, said: “Operations such as this help to build partnerships and interoperability among the various stakeholders involved in counter-piracy. It also helps to build friendships and understanding amongst mariners to increase maritime security and suppress piracy.”

The long term aims of counter-piracy stakeholders are to deter and disrupt piracy by working together; to enhance information sharing and to engage with regional partners, the merchant shipping community and local mariners.

Source: combinedmaritimeforces.com

Maritime Union Report on the Dangers Seafarers Face on Ships in the Persian Gulf

Persian Gulf/SoH

First Hand Report on Transiting the Strait of Hormuz in a Merchant Vessel

PERSIAN GULF – As with the case of piracy in the waters off the Somali Coast, nothing brings the realities of dangers at sea whilst transiting the seas in the region like the first-hand accounts of those who have experienced the terrors of passing through the Strait of Hormuz whilst anticipating an attack from armed forces.

With security levels raised by the British government following the seizure of the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero the focus of the maritime unions has been on the welfare of their members and now Nautilus International, the trade union for maritime professionals, has released the testimony of one of its members, via a report by Helen Kelly, illustrating the circumstances faced by seafarers in the region.

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Source: handyshippingguide.com

Top official of Sri Lanka’s independent police commission held

COLOMBO: A top official of Sri Lanka’s independent Police Commission was arrested on Thursday for allegedly being involved in a case relating to illegal gun-running and money laundering, the police said…

…The case is related to the alleged illegal transfer of government weapons to Avant Garde, a private firm, from the Sri Lanka Navy. Avant Garde operated a lucrative business of providing sea marshals to protect merchant ships from Somali pirates in the high seas, during former President Mahinda Rajapaksha’s regime.

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Source: newindianexpress.com