Pirates of the Lake – Gangs Prey on Venezuelan Fishermen

Written by Venezuela Investigative Unit, InSight Crime

Fishermen are denouncing increased piracy around Lake Valencia in northern Venezuela, which is weakening one of the last productive industries in the area.

For months, heavily armed pirates have attacked homes along the now-defunct Valencia-Güigüe highway in the state of Carabobo every 15 to 22 days. Residents report that they arrive on motorboats, armed with machine guns, and demand that fishermen hand over various belongings including fishing gear. Although no people have reportedly been harmed in recent attacks, there is reason to fear an escalation of violence if families are unable to meet the pirates’ increasing demands, according to press reports.

In 2017, four brothers were found dead in Lake Valencia, allegedly killed by pirates who tried to steal their boat engine motor while they were fishing.

Piracy on Venezuelan lakes is not a new phenomenon nor is it limited to Lake Valencia. Fishermen on Lake Maracaibo, in the northwestern state of Zulia, have reported extortion and violence from pirates for at least a decade. These attacks increased throughout 2019. Local residents told InSight Crime that pirates demand that fishermen surrender part of their daily catch. If fishermen refuse or do not surrender enough fish, the pirates take their boats or engines and demand payments of up to $2,000 to secure their return.

InSight Crime Analysis

As the economic situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, the few remaining industries that continue to generate any profit are likely to remain prime targets for extortion and theft. Fishing keeps local populations afloat on the shores of Lake Maracaibo and Lake Valencia, although profits have decreased in recent years due to inflation and environmental problems. This relative success has ensured that piracy remains a profitable criminal economy.

Fishermen have begged for state protection, but the government’s inaction in the face of these attacks will give little hope to vulnerable populations. Although the governor of Zulia announced the creation of a maritime force to protect fishermen from pirates in mid-2019, the barebones unit was comprised of only 35 police officers and one boat. In its first operation, the brigade freed four captives and retrieved two boats stolen by pirates. Despite this early success, a local fisherman and community leader told InSight Crime last March that attacks have continued.

And while much of the fishing on Lake Valencia is artisanal and does not feed into major industries, fishermen on Lake Maracaibo often sell their catch to companies that ship internationally. Capitalizing on this connection, gangs often charge fishermen extortion fees for access to Lake Maracaibo and to the seafood companies on its shores. A community leader in Zulia confirmed to InSight Crime that gangs, including Tren del Norte and Los Leal, are among several groups that engage in piracy and jockey for control of this economy in Lake Maracaibo.

Source: insightcrime.org

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.”

Navy looks to shore up defence against Moz terror threats

SA mulls making a temporary Richards Bay naval base permanent as IS ups the ante – but experts have a problem with this

Orrin Singh

The South African Navy is looking to establish a permanent base in Richards Bay, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, as the rapid escalation of terror-related activities in northern Mozambique have security analysts and government officials concerned.

Sources in the navy told Sunday Times Daily this week that there were “legitimate concerns” of security threats stemming from terror attacks in Cabo Delgado, which had displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the UN Food Programme, and resulted in more than 2,000 deaths in the province.

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Source: timeslive.co.za

How Covid-19 has escalated the maritime drug trade – and what AI can do about it

HMS Defender and drugs haul

Adele Berti

Israeli maritime intelligence and predictive analytics company Windward is using artificial intelligence to identify and pinpoint Europe-bound vessels that might be illicitly carrying drugs for distribution in the continent.

Spearheaded by CEO Ami Daniel, a local entrepreneur with a background serving in the navy, the company bids to speed up the digitalisation of the maritime sector by offering a predictive intelligence solution that relies on AI and big data for a range of applications including safety, security and finance.

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Source: ship-technology.com

CTF151 and Pakistan Navy hold talks ahead of CTF Command takeover

Media release

The Turkish-led Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) held a recent engagement with the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Ops) of the Pakistan Navy, two months ahead of the Pakistan takeover of CTF 151 command.

Rear Admiral Nejat Inanir of the Turkish Navy, the Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces’ CTF 151, followed the current Covid-19 trend of using Zoom conference calling to discuss matters of mutual cooperation and security in the region. Pakistan will be assuming command of CTF 151 in December for a record ninth time, marking this time as a key preparation period.

RAdm Inanir thanked the longstanding support and contribution of the Pakistan Navy to the Combined Maritime Forces for its provision of personnel and maritime assets which contribute to counter piracy operations in the region.

“I am so pleased to see Pakistan contribute to CMF so effectively. Their support aids how we maintain maritime security and ensure the free flow of commercial maritime trade,” said RAdm Inanir said. “We are seeing a large increase in small vessel activity now that the monsoon season is transitioning and it’s vital that CTF 151 continues to suppress any piracy activity early.”

Cdre Faisal commended the strong leadership of Turkish-led CTF 151:  “All support will be provided to CTF 151 for Counter Piracy Operations as and when required,” he said.

Both Commanders agreed to provide further assistance and collaboration to achieve their common goal of providing maritime security in the region and making the seas safe for legitimate mariners and seafarers.

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 151 is one of three CMF task forces with the mission to deter piracy across the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman, protecting the free flow of maritime commerce. Pakistan last led CTF 151 in 2016.

ENDS

 

Royal Navy seizes over 450kg in the largest methamphetamine drug bust in the Middle East

Sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Montrose intercepted over 450 kilograms of methamphetamine, with a wholesale value of £18 million, during a counter-narcotics operation in the Arabian Sea.

From:

The operation, which was part of the Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Operation SEA SHIELD, was an international effort involving several of the CMF’s 33 member nations and partners.

In rough seas, and aided by the ship’s Wildcat helicopter, sailors and Royal Marines conducted the boarding of the suspicious vessel, and during an extensive search discovered the 450kg haul hidden amongst the boat’s cargo.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said:

Following several large drugs busts by the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, HMS Montrose has conducted the most successful counter-methamphetamine operation ever in the Middle East.

Organised crime funds terrorism and by preventing these drugs reaching the open market HMS Montrose has directly interrupted illegal activity that causes considerable harm across the globe.

Intercepting and boarding suspicious vessels at sea is a skilled operation, made more challenging by the threat of COVID. The ship’s medical team was responsible for de-contaminating all personnel and equipment, and specialist PPE was used throughout the boarding process.

Commanding Officer of HMS Montrose Commander Charles Collins said:

Every sailor and marine, airman and woman, alongside our international partners, should be proud to have contributed to the success of this operation which has undoubtedly kept millions of pounds of drugs off our streets.

With four Mine Countermeasure Vessels, a forward deployed Type 23 Frigate and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship permanently deployed in the Middle East, the Royal Navy remains committed to keeping the region’s critical sea lanes free from illegal activity in order to maintain maritime security.

The Royal Marine Boarding Team’s Officer Commanding from 42 Commando Lt Joe Martin said:

For many of the Royal Marines in the team, this was their first operational tasking. It’s good to see all of our hard work and training come to fruition in an operational environment where we are truly making a positive impact to regional maritime security.

CMF is a multinational maritime partnership that works to counter illicit non-state actors in the Gulf region, promoting stability and security across some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The main focus is counter-narcotics, counter-smuggling, supressing piracy and encouraging regional co-operation in order to promote overall security and stability in the region.

Source: gov.uk

Iranian Ports Operating Normally after Cyberattack

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran said it has foiled a cyberattack on the electronic infrastructures of the seaports.

The Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran announced in a statement that its information technology experts have thwarted a cyberattack targeting the electronic infrastructures of the Iranian ports.

All missions and activities of the Ports and Maritime Organization are going on normally, the statement added, noting that online services are being provided to prevent any disruption to the freight services or loading and unloading operations even for a moment.

Last month, an official said the export of non-oil commodities in the first half of the current Iranian year via the southeastern port city of Chabahar has risen by 95 percent compared to the corresponding period a year earlier.

Chabahar is the closest and best access point of Iran to the Indian Ocean and Iran has devised serious plans to turn it into a transit hub for immediate access to markets in the northern part of the Indian Ocean and Central Asia.

Source: tasnimnews.com

Iran Says Opposed to Europe’s Military Presence in Persian Gulf

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi expressed the country’s opposition to any foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf region, including the presence of European forces.

Speaking in a meeting with the new Danish ambassador to Tehran on Wednesday, Araqchi stressed that the security of the Persian Gulf region should be provided by the countries of the region.

He said the presence of foreign troops will not only not help establish security but will prepare the ground for the escalation of tensions as well.

The Iranian official underlined that Persian Gulf security is an issue of common interest for all regional countries. He said the establishment of sustainable security in the region is contingent upon dialogue and collective cooperation among regional countries and non-interference by foreign powers.

“Therefore, instead of deploying troops and military equipment or selling massive amounts of arms to certain regional countries, Denmark and other European countries had better tackle the root cause of tensions in the region, namely the United States’ destructive and wrong policies in the Persian Gulf region,” he said.

In the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on regional and international developments, fighting terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and potential for economic cooperation between the two countries.

Source: tasnimnews.com

Chinese navy fleet returns from escort mission

HANGZHOU — A Chinese navy flotilla returned to the port city of Zhoushan in East China’s Zhejiang province Wednesday after completing its mission of escorting civilian vessels in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia.

The 35th escort squad of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, comprising the guided-missile destroyer Taiyuan, the missile frigate Jingzhou and the supply ship Chaohu, escorted 49 Chinese and foreign ships during the mission. The fleet set sail from Zhoushan on April 28.

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Source: chinadaily.com.cn