23 - 30 March 2012
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The Network with Maritime Manners
Hard-hitting Week: Seafarers hit hard as four vessels hijacked in two days, including the first hijack in Maldivian waters. EU forces disrupt two pirate groups whilst Iran Navy claims shoot out with pirates. Somaliland law changes sees pirates taken into custody, easing the Seychelles burden, and a US court hands down a life sentence to a yacht pirate. Nigeria and Benin declared high risk as kidnapped crewmembers are released. Pakistani negotiator claims to have agreed terms for crew release. Focus back on maritime security firms; BIMCO announces publication of GUARDCON. Hard work still required to combat piracy; China maintains naval presence off Somalia as Russia looks to increase cooperation with NATO. Not paying ransoms will adversely affect seafarers. Indian seafarers and families seek government action. Indian and Filipino seafarers held hostage increases once more. South African couple are 'alive'. Bahamas joins the Washington declaration. USCG journal 'Proceedings' on Combating Piracy. Salvors praised by former IMO Secretary General.
Contents (pot of tea/coffee ready; bigger than usual edition):
MV Eglantine, an Iranian-owned bulk carrier with 23 crew members on board, has been reported hijacked - Somalia Report.
The Eglantine, previously named the Bluebell and the Iran Gilan, is owned by Darya Hafiz Shipping and is a 63k DWT Bolivian-flagged [stated as Cyprus-flagged in some reports] bulk carrier.
The Maldives says it has abandoned an attempt to rescue a Bolivian-flagged cargo ship hijacked by pirates because it has drifted away from its territorial waters - Hindustan Times.
The National Defense Force says the vessel identified as MV Eglantine was hijacked in the Indian Ocean waters off the Maldives on Monday. A coast guard vessel began tracking the vessel.
Defense Force spokesman Lt. Abdulla Ali said Wednesday they abandoned the operation Tuesday evening after the ship left Maldivian waters.
Image - via Vesseltracker.com
This is the moment a brave attempt to save British hostage Judith Tebbutt from the clutches of her Somali kidnappers failed, reports Mail Online.
Mrs Tebbutt, 56, was being transferred between boats by the pirates who had snatched her from a luxury Kenyan beach resort and murdered her husband.
Kenyan pilots who had responded to an SOS call spent hours tracking the small boat through the Indian Ocean.
They tried to scare her captors into dropping her into the sea as she was switched to the bigger vessel.
Image - Mail Online
It is feared that a Taiwanese fishing vessel has been hijacked in position 10:00S - 050:00E, in the Indian Ocean, writes Somalia Report
Maritime officials in Mombasa and Seychelles said that the fishing vessel lost contact with her operator on Tuesday afternoon.
The last known postion was some 65nm south of southern Seychelles. The vessel was said to have last been seen sailing towards the Somali coast.
The NATO Shipping Centre then reported that an FV was hijacked in the vicinity of position 03:00N - 055:00E, and was taken to the Somali coast 26 Mar. It is believed that this hijack is the one referred to above by Somalia Report. The FV last seen in vicinity of 05:31N - 048:41E. PAG may be operating in the area. Reported (via NSC) 27 Mar.
The International Maritime Bureau later issued a piracy alert that a
n Oman-flagged fishing vessel, Naham 3
, had been reported hijacked and 15 crew members taken as hostages in position 06:18.50N – 050:13.04E: around 115nm NE of Hobyo, Somalia; its last known position was near the coast of Somalia. Further reporting awaited. IMB initial report was 26 Mar.
The hijacks are a series of four successfully carried out by pirates in the high risk area of the Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean. See 'Piracy Incidents' below.
EU Naval Force Flagship ESPS Patino located a Yemeni registered dhow that was suspected of being involved in acts of piracy off the Somali coast. Read more.
EU Counter Piracy Naval Forces have tracked down and stopped a group of suspected pirates who were believed to have tried to attack a Hong-Kong flagged tanker approximately 400 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia - OCEANUSLive.
EU Naval Force warship FS Aconit was called to investigate after the tanker came under attack on March 26. Aconit was directed onto the fleeing pirates by a Luxembourgish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA), which have recently completed 3500 Flights Hours with EUNAVFOR.
The MPRA quickly located the suspects who were towing a small skiff behind a larger sea going whaler. The MPRA provided imagery showing pirate paraphernalia. Read more.
The Iranian Navy got involved in a shootout with Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, Fars reported - Trend Az.
The Navy managed to save a merchant ship from the pirates, who fled after the shootout. No casualties were reported.
On Feb. 26 Iranian fleet of warships thwarted a pirate attack on Iranian oil tanker North of a strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
The Oil tanker came under attack by 6 Somali pirate speedboats 35 miles North of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The Iranian naval forces and commandos' swift action forced the pirates to flee the scene. Read more.
Two Somali fishermen were killed after unknown international Naval forces opened fire at a Yemeni registered fishing vessel with nine Somali crew members, writes Somalia Report.
Accroding to Puntland officials, the Naval forces mistook the fishing vessel for that of pirates. They also confirmed that Al-Qanim had arrived at Bosaso port on Friday with two dead crew members.
Local businessmen and reliable sources in Bosaso added that the fishing vessel was moving in the Gulf of aden at the time of the attack.
"The fishing vessel arrived at the Basaso port with two deceased cremembers. We spoke to the other crewmembbers and they told us that a naval foce had mistakenly attacked them. They were seized, detaind and interoggated before release," Libaan Dheere, a well known business in Bosaso told Somalia Report. Read more.
On Thursday 29th March Spanish warship ESPS Infanta Elena, operating as part of the European counter piracy force (EUNAVFOR), came to the aid of a Somali fishing vessel, adrift off the coast of Mogadishu, reports AllAfrica.
Infanta Elena was patrolling the waters off the coast of Somalia as part of its mission to deter piracy and protect vulnerable shipping when the crew noticed a Somali whaler adrift.
After obtaining permission to send a team aboard the vessel the EU forces ascertained that the fisherman had suffered an engine failure and some of the crew were in need to medical assistance.
Engineers from the EUNAVFOR ship were able to quickly fix the mechanical problem with the engine, allowing the ship to sail back to shore. Whilst repairs were underway the ships doctors also provided medical assistance to two injured Somalis and gave the whaler's crew food and water.
This encounter once again shows the utility and versatility of the EUNAVFOR mission which not only counters piracy but is committed to assisting the Somali people and promoting the growth of law abiding activities in Somali waters.
The hijacking of a combined chemical and oil tanker off Benin last week has raised concerns that Somali tactics are being copied off West Africa, comments Intermanager.
Some items were taken from the Liberia-flagged Zouzou but no crew members were harmed in the attack and the robbers left the vessel. However, this is one of the first reported incidents of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea using a mothership and skiffs, according to Gary Li, head of marine and aviation at London intelligence company Exclusive Analysis.
“I have heard of only two reports which have been similar but this is the clearest indication that pirates in this area are mimicking Somali tactics and landing skiffs,” he said. “They hijacked the vessel and stole the cargo but did not take any crew members hostage as this is not really a trend in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The 2010-built, 50,651 dwt Zouzou sent a distress call after being attacked by pirates early yesterday [Mar 22]. A couple of minutes later it called mayday and reported that it was under attack by approximately 12 armed pirates.
Piracy in the region is not new. The London insurance market highlighted it as a risk last August and adjusted premiums accordingly. However, up to this point, pirate activity has been thought to be distinct from what has been common in the Gulf of Aden.
If pirates in the Gulf of Guinea continue to copy Somali tactics, this could force shipowners and governments to call for more security in the area. There is no international security effort in the Gulf of Guinea, which was named a high risk area by the International Bargaining Forum this week. Maritime security in the area is undertaken by regional navies but Mr Li said that they are “totally incapable of handling the situation”.
He added: “The UN pushed for action, but the problem is that in this instance it is not dealing with a failed state and there is no vacuum.
“The Gulf of Guinea straddles several coastlines and therefore a significant amount of co-operation between states is needed. Currently the effort is overly reliant on Nigeria, but it can’t possibly patrol an area that large.”
Matthew Lamb, deputy director of Control Risks Group, which operates in the region, said: “One of the major issues is the security forces of these countries. Mostly this would fall to navies that are under-funded, under-resourced and poorly trained.
“They would find it very difficult to respond to a ship’s distress call at all, let alone immediately, unless they happened to have a ship in the area. This is certainly a contributory factor in the amount of maritime crime that we see in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has presented the Draft Piracy and other Unlawful Acts at Sea Bill to industry stakeholders in Lagos - The Nation Online.
The draft bill, which relies on the various treaties of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ratified by Nigeria, is expected to provide a regulatory framework for defining piracy and criminality at sea, prosecuting and punishing criminals.
At the event, NIMASA Director-General Mr Ziakede Akpobolokemi, underscored the negative impact of piracy, saying that about $3 billion is lost yearly to sea robbery globally and that Nigeria is a major contributor.
The NIMASA boss, who was represented by the Executive Director, Cabotage Service and Labour, Mr Ibrahim Zilani, said: “In a bid to develop a robust legal framework for fighting these incidences on sea, an international conference on piracy was organised by NIMASA in collaboration with the Nigeria Navy.
“One of the resolutions at that conference was to strengthen existing legal framework. This bill is drawn not only from conventions of the IMO that Nigeria is a signatory to, but also provisions of other protocols yet to be conceded to, but important for curbing unlawful acts at sea.” Read more.
A record number of piracy attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea last year, according to the International Maritime Organization, making it one of the top 10 piracy hotspots in the world and prompting a push by insurers to label the region “high risk.” - US AFRICOM.
Those are distinctions countries in the area would like to see go away.
This week in Benin, member states of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States agreed to continue to work together to prevent piracy, smuggling and other security challenges affecting the region’s waterways and commercial trade. The two groups, plus experts and representatives from outside organizations, met for two days at the annual Maritime Safety and Security Seminar, hosted by U.S. Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Read more.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi/U.S. Africa Command)
A Pakistani negotiator for a Malaysian-owned ship [MV Albedo] held by Somali pirates says he has reached agreement to free the crew in exchange for a ransom of almost $3 million - The Republic.
The pirates have been holding MV Albedo for more than a year.
Negotiator Ahmed Chenoy says they would free its 23 crew members after agreeing to a ransom payment of $2.85 million. Chenoy did not say who would provide the money. He said it will be delivered to the pirates by plane by April 20.
The Kenya-bound ship was hijacked in November 2010 in the Gulf of Aden. Its crew members come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.
Chenoy is an official in Pakistan's Sindh province. He said Wednesday he reached out to the ship's hijackers through Dubai-based Somali merchants.
Three sailors kidnapped from a Dutch-owned cargo ship [Breiz Klipper] off Nigeria nearly a month ago have been released, Netherlands news agency ANP reported, citing shipowner Seatrade - Expatica.
The three men -- the captain and an officer [ Captain Viktor Pikus and Chief Engineer Vyacheslav Melnikov], both Russians, and a Filipino crew member -- had been "relatively well treated" and were "relatively well, given the circumstances," it quoted a Seatrade spokesman as saying.
The identity of the kidnappers was unknown, said the spokesman, who declined to say whether a ransom had been paid. The sailors were taken captive from the "Breiz Klipper" which was carrying a cargo of frozen fish.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy watchdog in Kuala Lumpur reported on February 29 that pirates had attacked a Dutch-owned and Curacao-flagged vessel off Nigeria's Port Harcourt the previous day.
A band of eight armed pirates had robbed the 14 crew before fleeing with three hostages, according to the IMB, which said the ship's crew was made up of Russians, Ukrainians and Filipinos.
A Somali man has received a life sentence for his role in the hijacking of an American yacht - Washington Post.
A federal judge in Norfolk, Va., sentenced Said Abdi Fooley on Friday. He had pleaded guilty to piracy, which carries a mandatory life term.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith recommended the Bureau of Prisons consider Fooley’s language barrier when placing him so that he can further his education.
Fooley is among 11 men who pleaded guilty to piracy for hijacking the Quest off the coast of Africa in February 2011. The owners of the yacht, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., and their friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle were fatally shot after negotiations with the U.S. Navy broke down.
Three other men face murder charges.
The Director General in Somaliland Ministry of Justice Mr. Muse Haji Galaydh has revealed Somaliland will allow prisoners currently imprisoned in the Seychelles in it soil and are scheduled to be transferred soon in an interview the horn cable tv - Somaliland Press. The Director General said that out of the 92 pirates currently held in Seychelles, Somaliland will allow the first patch consisting of 19 prisoners.
Whose origins are from Southern Somalia and Puntland are expected to arrive in the country soon.
Mr. Galaydh said after great consideration Somaliland has accepted to Jail the pirates on request of the international community and also at the prisoners request who asked to be jailed in a country where their relatives can come and visit them, a place where they can practice their religion freely and also where the people share a common language and the same customs we have decide to except on humanitarian grounds. Read more.
Ever since the piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somalian coast has started, the Republic of Somaliland has pursued a vigorous and successful strategy of denying prospective or actual pirates any safe havens on its territory and has detained and prosecuted persons who are suspected of planning or executing acts of piracy - Somaliland Law. The small and poorly equipped Somaliland Coastal Force has, with increasing recent external help, improved its capacity to monitor Somaliland’s 530 mile coast. In order to implement its obligations under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which has been ratified by former Somali Democratic Republic in 1989 and also the Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, which Somaliland has signed, and to address the deficiencies of the current dated criminal laws (see below), Somaliland has recently adopted a new law on piracy. The Law for Combating Piracy Law (or the Piracy Law) - Law No. 52/2012 – has been passed by both Houses of Parliament and signed, on 21 March 2012, into law by the President of the Republic. Copies of the law are available HERE.
Somaliland authorities have taken into custody nine convicted privates from the Seychelles. The plane carrying the convict pirates touched down at the Egal International Airport at midday Wednesday and were immediately escorted to Hargeisa’s central prison which will be home to the pirates - Somaliland Press.
Mr Mohamed Osman coordinator with Somaliland anti-piracy task force was at the airport to receive the first batch of the 19 convicted pirates at the Egal international airport where they arrived on board chartered plane by the United Nation’s office on drug and crime.
The Somaliland Minister of Justice Hon Ahmed Hussein Aidiid revealed at a press conference that government of Somaliland has in custody nine convicted pirates the first batch of 19 pirates who are expected to serve the reminder of their sentences in Somaliland after been convicted by court in the Seychelles. The Minister of Justice was there to oversee the transfer according to Mr Mohamed Osman of the Somaliland anti-piracy task force, the nine convicted pirates are all from Somali, the convict are expected to serve sentences ranging from 10 years to 25 years. Read more.
A second batch of 8 pirate-convicts have arrived in to serve their sentences in local prisons, reports Somaliland Sun.
The 8 convicts who will join 9 of their colleagues at the Hargeisa Prison were handed-over to the ministry of Justice by officials from U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime-UNODC at the Egal International airport.
The 17 pirates are to serve their sentences in Somaliland following their unprompted request to the Seychelles government. All the 17 who are original from South Central Somalia complained of difficulties imposed by language, and religion thus making their imprisonment harder than necessary.
In their transfer request the pirate-convicts said that Somaliland will be the ideal country to serve their sentences as all prisoners and their guards speak Somali and adhere to Islam thus ease of fulfilling religious obligations, especially prayers which were taboo in the Seychelles prison.
Another reason cited was the proximity of Hargeisa to their home in South Somalia which will facilitate visits by family members who were unable to visit them in Seychelles. Read more.
The release of a UK hostage in Somalia has drawn attention to the British security firms which are increasingly dominating Somalia's lucrative anti-piracy industry - BBC News.
It was a family ransom which ultimately secured the release of Hertfordshire social worker Judith Tebbutt this week, but there have been media reports of negotiators who paved the way for the 56-year-old's safe return.
With the UK government saying it refuses to talk to kidnappers, the door has opened for private security firms to fill the void in this troubled African country.
The Times reported that specialist lawyers at one such company, Control Risks, spent months thrashing out the deal - but the firm will not confirm or deny helping free the mother.
Andy Bearpark, director of the British Association of Private Security Companies, says negotiators are making "enormous" amounts of money, but carry a heavy burden.
10 Kenyans, among them six police officers, who were detained in the Comoros for more than a month, have arrived in Mombasa - Saturday nation.
The group, which arrived at about 7pm on Thursday [March 22] on MV Squirrel, seven days after a Comoros court dropped charges, declined to divulge details of its ordeal in detention.
The six police officers, Mr Ruben Ngetich, Mr Kimathi Mukinda, Mr Boniface Kithuku, Mr Evans Ndigwa, Mr James Muisya and Mr James Ndirangu, had been charged with being in the Comoros illegally and possessing firearms while the seamen faced charges of trespass and violation of customs laws.
The Kenyans were arrested on the Indian Ocean island on February 19 aboard the vessel that was ferrying oil exploration equipment.
A seaman, who briefly talked to Saturday Nation on condition of anonymity, said they had been ordered by the police and their employer not to divulge any details. Read more.
BIMCO, an international shipping association that shipowners controlling approximately 65 percent of the world’s tonnage, announced today the publication of its highly anticipated GUARDCON, a standard contract for the employment of security guards on vessels - gCaptain.
The new contract has been developed following the industries unfortunate need to provide ship owners and private maritime security companies (PMSC) with a clearly worded and comprehensive standard contract that governs the employment and use of security guards, with or without firearms, on board merchant vessels.
“In response to ship owners’ increasing demand for security services, an ever growing number of private maritime security companies have entered the market to meet that demand,” said BIMCO’s Chief Legal Officer, Grant Hunter.
While BIMCO recognizes that it would not like to see the use of armed security guards on ships become institutionalized, it does recognize that while the industry awaits a more permanent long term solution, armed guards on ships are an effective, and arguably the best, deterrent for vessel hijackings and attacks. Read more.
Sample copy and explanatory notes available HERE.
While family members of a South African couple held hostage by Somali pirates since 16 months ago were asking the world community for a rescue operation, an EU naval commander said Monday such a move "would be too risky." - CRI English
Fearing the risk of mass casualties, an international counter-piracy force operating off the coast of Somalia has ruled out the possibility of carrying out an armed raid to free 220 seafarers held hostage there, including the South African couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz.
"The main concern is not to put lives at risk. A recovery operation is highly risky," said Rear Admiral Jorge Manso, the Force Commander of the European Union Naval Taskforce (EUNAVFOR), which has been battling piracy there since 2008.
Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were probably the longest-held hostages since they were captured by pirates together with their yacht in the Madagascar/Mozambican channel some 16 months ago.
Last week, the EU confirmed its intention to extend the mandate of the counter-piracy mission, code-named Operation Atlanta, until December 2014.
The decision effectively included an extension of the area of operation to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters. Read more.
Pirate attacks are a little less frequent than last year, but the European Union has no intention of easing the pressure on Somali outlaws who prowl the Horn of Africa coast and the Indian Ocean - The National.
On Friday, the EU agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates to include attacks on land targets. The 10 EU warships operating off the Horn are now authorised to strike moored vessels and fuel dumps in "coastal territory and internal waters".
As a tactic to fight piracy, the EU's extension of Operation Atalanta makes a degree of sense. Pirate bases on land will, initially at least, offer little resistance to the EU forces, which will likely be helicopter-borne. The pirates' small boats are no match for the EU's heavily equipped warships; certainly, pirate groups can expect heavy material losses and many casualties.
However, this mission creep will be risky for the Europeans. Attacks without a follow-up plan, as many interventions in the Middle East and Africa have shown in the past, ultimately fail because they leave behind further instability. The pirates, like the Shabaab militia (and the line between the two is now blurred), will be almost impossible to eradicate in the absence of a political solution that helps to build a stable government in the coastal area, and in all of Somalia.
Statistics that have been collected suggest that pirates in Somalia make more money, and have higher life expectancy, than the country's farmers. Pirates claimed $160 million (Dh588 million) in ransoms in 2011. In impoverished, insecure Somalia, turning to piracy could be seen as a rational decision.
Further, any EU military successes will be overshadowed by a downed helicopter or a demolished house full of children. Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate how quickly such missions become military, and public relations, disasters.
The only real solution for piracy requires civil institutions to suppress crime and create legitimate opportunities. That is of course easier said than done, but by working with the country's transitional government, the EU and others can help build those institutions, starting with a well-run army and police forces.
The EU mission faces a long haul to protect shipping in the area, including World Food Programme ships that deliver aid to displaced Somalis. But widening hostilities could hurt those efforts more than help them.
Politicians in India are pressuring their government to intervene on behalf of crewmen of the hijacked MT Royal Grace - The National.
The Dubai-registered chemical tanker was captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman this month after setting sail from Sharjah. The crew of 22 consists of 17 Indians, three Nigerians, a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi.
PC Chacko, an MP from Kerala, said he would meet the external affairs minister SM Krishna and ask the government to act as two crewmen were from his constituency.
Mr Chacko visited the families of both men and assured them the government would do everything it could to ensure their safe release.
"I came to know that the owner of the ship has initiated negotiations to release the ship," he said. "The government of India has also instructed the director general of shipping to closely follow the developments pertaining to the incident and update them from time to time. Something must be done to stop this menace. It's a horrible experience for the families."
Fasil Ashraf is a friend of one of the crew, Stanly Vincent, 21.
Mr Ashraf said he had heard nothing from the owner about the ship. "We are in dark about the developments," he said. "There has been no information on this matter.
MT Royal Grace is owned by Oyster Cargo and Shipping Company. The company could not be reached for comment.
Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) was invited to MC Northwood to meet with the staff of the NATO Shipping Center to maintain and strengthen the dialogue between the two organizations which work to provide the maritime community with the best information products possible to avoid piracy - Globmaritime.com.
The IMB is based in London and is a specialized division within the Commercial Crimes Services of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). IMB's primary mission is to protect the integrity of international trade by seeking out fraud and malpractice. One of the IMB's principal areas of expertise is in the suppression of piracy. Concerned at the alarming growth in the phenomenon, this led to the creation of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in 1992, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It maintains a round-the-clock watch on the world's shipping lanes, reporting pirate attacks to local law enforcement and issuing warnings to shipping about piracy hotspots.
Both Captain Mukundan and Michael Howlett, Divisional Director of the IMB, addressed the Senior Leadership and operational sectors of MC Northwood Headquarters (HQ), NATO, sharing information on how the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau, the Financial Investigation Bureau and the IMB look at trade finance fraud, container crime, charter party fraud, phantom ship fraud and their relationship with the Piracy Reporting Center and Counter Piracy as a whole. This informative overview provided comprehensive knowledge and background which will no doubt prove to be useful to work being done at this NATO HQ. Read more.
A task force from Russia’s Northern Fleet, led by the Udaloy class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov, will soon depart on an new anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast, the fleet’s spokesman Capt. 1st Rank Vadim Serga said on Tuesday - Ria Novosti.
The destroyer is currently on a training mission in the Barents Sea as part of the preparations for the upcoming tour-of-duty in the Gulf of Aden.
“It will be the first anti-piracy mission for the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyer,” Serga said.
The new task force will replace the Russian Pacific Fleet’s task force headed by the Admiral Tributs destroyer, which completed its anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast on Monday and set sail for its home base in Vladivostok.
The Admiral Tributs, the Pechenega tanker and a rescue tugboat arrived in the Gulf of Aden on January 12 and escorted five convoys of commercial ships since then.
Task forces from the Russian Navy, usually led by Udaloy class destroyers, operate in the area on a rotating basis. Read more.
NATO and Russia agree that countering piracy is a common security challenge and have agreed to explore ways to strengthen cooperation in this area under the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) Work Programme for 2012. Building on limited military tactical cooperation off the Horn of Africa, they are seeking to strengthen information exchange and coordination and considering possible mutual support, such as refuelling and medical assistance, for ships involved in counter-piracy operations - Safety4Sea.
"We are all actors in the same area and good cooperation between our forces will enhance the effectiveness in keeping the shipping lanes safe as well as mutual understanding of the NATO and Russian units," says Rear Admiral (LH) Sinan Azmi Tosun, the current Commander of Ocean Shield, NATO's counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.
Remarks by US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military affairs, Andrew J Shapiro to the Center for American Progress in Washington DC - US State Dept.
Despite the romantic notions surrounding piracy of previous centuries, modern day piracy represents a new and complex threat to the international community. While piracy at sea is certainly not a new problem, its modern re-incarnation has an impact of a different magnitude. Piracy off the coast of Somalia threatens one of the principal foundations of today’s modern interconnected global economic system – and that is freedom of navigation on the high seas. In a globalized world, the impact of piracy in one area of the world can cause a ripple effect greater in magnitude than ever before. We live in an era of complex, integrated, and on-demand global supply chains. People in countries around the world depend on secure and reliable shipping lanes for their food, their medicine, their energy, and consumer goods. By preying on commercial ships in one of the world’s most traversed shipping lanes, pirates off the Horn of Africa threaten more than just individual ships. They threaten a central artery of the global economy, and therefore global security and stability.
The United States will join partners from nearly 70 countries, international organizations, and the private sector at the United Nations in New York on March 29 for a plenary meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia - US State Dept. The Contact Group is a broad and growing diplomatic effort taking action against criminal activity that threatens commerce and humanitarian aid deliveries along one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
The plenary, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, will be the eleventh gathering of this outstanding international partnership. Since its initial meeting in January 2009, the Contact Group has nearly tripled in size. This is a testament to the global consensus that piracy poses a shared security challenge to maritime safety and to the need for further concerted and coordinated international action. Among its accomplishments to date, the Contact Group has:
Facilitated coordination of international naval patrols through the operational coordination of an unprecedented international naval effort from more than 30 countries working together to protect transiting vessels. The United States coordinates these efforts with multilateral coalitions such as NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the European Union’s Operation ATALANTA. The United States also looks to further develop counter-piracy cooperation with several other nations deploying forces to the international counter-piracy effort, including China, India, Japan, and Russia.
Partnered with the shipping industry to improve practical steps merchant ships and crews can take to avoid, deter, delay, and counter pirate attacks. The shipping industry’s use of Best Management Practices and the increasing use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel are among these measures that have proven to be the most effective deterrents against pirate attacks.
Strengthened the capacity of Somalia and other countries in the region to combat piracy, in particular by contributing to the UN Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; and
Advanced a new initiative aimed at disrupting the pirates’ financial and logistical networks ashore through approaches similar to those used to target other types of organized transnational criminal networks. Read more.
Despite Defense Department budget cuts and ongoing military operations, pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia won’t see a decrease in naval military presence any time soon - CatalystDC.com. NATO allies recently agreed to continue through 2014 the Ocean Shield operation – a counter-piracy naval operation off the Horn of Africa protecting merchant ships from pirate attack. This is welcome news to many ship owners and charters, which have seen an increase in the number of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean. In 2011, Somali pirates attacked 439 vessels, fired on 113 of them, hijacked 45, and took 802 hostages. The pirate threat and the international response seem only to be escalating.
Piracy in the Indian Ocean threatens human life, regional stability, and international commerce, costing the global economy $7 billion to $12 billion annually. To address this issue, the National Chamber Foundation (NCF) recently hosted “High Risk on the High Seas: The Economic Impact of Piracy in the Indian Ocean,” an event featuring comments from industry and government experts on the challenge of piracy and the threat to commercial interests in the Indian Ocean.
For ships passing through the 2.5 million square nautical miles of water where Somali pirates operate, security measures are a necessity. Speakers at the NCF program offered several perspectives on the pirate threat, offering insight into the primary areas where governments and industry should focus their efforts. Read more.
In a speech in Brussels held 28 March, at a seminar on Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea, the keynote speech by Koji Sekimizu, the Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization,“Coordination and co-operation: activities of IMO and the way forward”, said:
As piracy continues to plague shipping and put the lives and livelihoods of seafarers at serious risk, we must continue to work hard to ensure meaningful and substantial progress in the fight to combat this insidious criminal activity. We must change and stem the tide towards complete eradication. A coordinated response, across several different fronts, is the only way forward and, from this point of view, the holding of this Seminar is timely and I appreciate Vice-President Kallas for inviting me to address the Seminar today.
As the specialized agency of the United Nations with, among other things, a responsibility for the safety and security of international shipping, the International Maritime Organization has been among those actively advocating and working towards just such a coordinated approach. This is based on our long involvement in combating piracy, not just Somali-based but in other parts of the world too.
IMO was, for example, instrumental in establishing the framework for collaboration among the littoral States of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and the South China Sea that proved so successful in helping to almost eradicate piracy in what used to be the world’s major hotspot.
More recently, it was IMO that first drew the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia to the attention of the United Nations Security Council; and, since then, we have been in the vanguard of counter-piracy efforts, often on our own initiative, and often in collaboration with others. Read more.
On the question of ransom payments relating to Somali piracy, Lord hannay of Chiswich in the UK House of Lords (Parliament) stated "...now that the Government are getting a better grip on all aspects of the problems of Somalia, including that of piracy, it is high time that the Government insisted that anyone assembling a ransom should file a suspicious activity report about that? Would he also confirm that the Prime Minister has now asked for a proper study to be made of all aspects of the issue of assembling ransoms?"
In response, Lord Henley replied "As regards whether SARs should be used whenever a ransom has been paid, the paying of ransom, as the noble Lord will be aware, is not illegal as such, although we deplore the practice because we do not think it assists. I can also confirm that, as the noble Lord put it, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister does want further work to be looked at in this area to see whether it should be something for which a SAR should automatically be filed if that is the case." He went on to iterate the pirate/terrorist nexus issue: "...we made it clear that we do not believe that the money going in ransoms to-if I can put it this way-the ordinary Somali pirates is generally going into terrorists' hands. What is being gathered by AQIM is coming from other kidnapping operations..."
Lord Henley then points out that, "...the simple fact is that, much as we deplore the payment of ransoms-Her Majesty's Government have made that clear for some time-they are not illegal as such." Read the full extract HERE.
With 22 armed attacks on ships in Nigeria and Benin Republic in the past two months, the Bight of Benin now ranks next to the Gulf of Aden in terms of piracy. The result is that the international shipping community, including Lloyd's Maritime Association, is considering higher freight charges for imports destined to the region, reports Francis Ugwoke - This Day Live.
There has been palpable apprehension among ship owners engaged in trade with the country over the increasing activities of pirates within Nigeria's coast in the past few weeks. Already, Nigeria and its neighbor, Benin, are being fingered as second to Somalia in terms of piracy attacks. This follows a report that while there were 58 piracy attacks on ships within the nation's coastal waters last year, there have been 22 attacks so far this year on ships trading in the Bight of Benin, a development that has caught the attention of the international shipping community.
While the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), an arm of the United Nations has warned ship owners about the dangers of piracy Nigeria, Lloyd's Maritime Association, a high profile group of shipping insurers with headquarters in the United Kingdom, is considering imposing higher freight charges on goods headed for Nigeria.
Curiously, Nigerian authorities appear helpless over the situation, which is coming at a time when efforts are being made by the federal government to boost shipping activities in the Niger Delta with the approval of N9.406 billion for the rehabilitation of the old Warri Port. The port was abandoned for over two decades for a number of reasons, including hostilities and ship hijacks by youths in the region who demand for ransom. Read more.
The release of Judith Tebbutt may be fantastic news for her friends and family, but it sheds awkward light on the government's attitude towards paying ransoms for hostages.
Last month, David Cameron reinforced this position during the London Conference on Somalia, telling delegates during his keynote address that it was time to bring the practice to an end.
"Let's create an international taskforce on ransoms," he said. "And let's set the ultimate ambition of stopping these payments because in the end they only ensure that crime pays."
The US has been even more explicit. In a speech last year, Andrew Shapiro, a senior official in the state department, said: "A vicious cycle has formed where ever-rising ransom payments have not just spurred additional pirate activity but have also enabled pirates to increase their operational capabilities and sophistication. Piracy has gone from a fairly ad-hoc disorganised criminal endeavour to a highly developed transnational criminal enterprise."
This stance has infuriated international shipping companies who argue that the consequences of not paying are too terrible to contemplate – both for the hostages themselves, and for trade on the high seas.
The unspoken truth is these payments are so ingrained into the business of piracy, it will be difficult to stop them in the short term. Read more.
The hijack of a ship by Somali pirates in the waters of the Maldives may in future keep cruising yachts away from the idyllic necklace of atolls in the central Indian Ocean - Sail-World. Up until now, the Maldives has been a popular stopping place on the way across the Indian Ocean, whether the yachts are headed for the Red Sea or for Africa.
With no yachts expected to venture via the Red Sea, the Maldives has still been a good rest point and offered an interesting stay for passing yachts on their way to the longer route around Africa - but maybe no more.
In an alarming expansion of the zone known to be frequented by pirates, the Bolivian-flagged vessel MV Eglantine, with 23 crew members on board, was hijacked this week a mere 190 nautical miles north west of Hoarafushi Island in the Haa Alif Atoll. Read more.
The Chinese navy's escort missions in Somali waters have been "100 percent successful" since they started to dispatch escort warships to the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coastal area in January 2009, China's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Wang Min said here Thursday - CRI English.
Wang made the remarks at the eleventh plenary meeting of the Contact Group on piracy off the coast of Somalia.
By the end of March this year, China has dispatched eleven batches of 28 warships to engage in escort missions for 4,543 vessels in 431 batches, more than half of which were foreign vessels, Wang said.
"The escort missions are 100 percent successful," he said.
"We rescued 48 vessels which were attacked and chased by pirates, and escorted eight vessels which were released after abduction," the ambassador said. "These efforts have contributed to the safety and security of Chinese and foreign vessels passing through the Somali coastal area, as well as the shipping and navigation order in the region." Read more.
The families of seven Indian sailors, on board 'MV Asphalt Venture' that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2010, are wondering why the Indian government is taking so long to secure the release of the sailors - IBN Live. Some of them are to accompany Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy when he goes to New Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the issue with the central government. The Panama-flagged vessel 'MV Asphalt Venture', owned by a joint venture of a British and Middle-East company, got hijacked by pirates near Tanzania while on way to Durban from Mombasa, Kenya on Sep 28, 2010.
Since then the misery for the sailors and their families has been enormous. Last April, the pirates released eight other sailors, but continued to keep the Indian sailors hostage. Of the seven sailors, two are from Kerala and their families are pinning their hope on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to pressurise the central government for the sailors release.
Speaking to IANS, Chandy said he has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several cabinet ministers in the matter. "On Tuesday I am in Delhi and the families of these victims will also be there. We will again make one more attempt to see that some action is done. The sufferings of these people has gone beyond limits," said Chandy. Read more and see video.
“They are alive”. After months of not hearing from her brother and his partner after they had been kidnapped by Somali pirates, Durban woman, Vera Hecht, has finally received confirmation that the pair are alive - IOL.co.za.
Durban couple Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were captured by Somali pirates in October 2010 and are being held hostage.
Hecht sought proof that her brother and his partner were still alive and received confirmation two weeks ago.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday Hecht said that “Ali”, the pirate she has been in communication with, gave her the proof she needed.
“He (Ali) let me ask Bruno and Debbie two questions that only they would know the answers to. And they answered correctly. They’re fine,” Hecht said. Hecht would not reveal what questions were put to Pelizzari and Calitz or the answers given by the couple. Read more.
The latest ‘Situation Report’ on pirate activities released by the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) on Wednesday has revealed that Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa are holding eight vessels and 236 crews hostage - IBN Live. In an e-mail reply to Express, the Public Information Office of EU NAVFOR has revealed that of the 236 sailors now held hostage by the pirates in the region, 32 are Indians, which includes seven members from the ship ‘Asphalt Venture’ that had been released but the hostages are still being held.
Asphalt Venture was hijacked on September 28, 2010 in the Somali Basin and after intervention from anti-piracy forces, she was released from the pirates’ captivity on April 15, 2011. However, pirates took hostage of about 15 of the vessel’s crew seeking more ransom.
According to the report, of the eight vessels that were held by pirates, Panama-flagged MV Iceberg-1 with 22 crew members onboard would be completing two years in the pirates’ captivity on Thursday.
The report further revealed that besides Iceberg, MV Albedo (Malaysia-flag), MV Orna (Panama-flag), MV Liquid Velvet (Marshall Islands-flag), MV Enrico Ievoli (Italy-flag), MV Free Goddess (Liberia-flag), MV Leila (Panama-flag), MT Royal Grace (Panama-flag) and MV Eglantine (Bolivia-flag) were the other vessels held by the pirates.
While MV Iceberg-1 was hijacked on March 29, 2010, the latest one joining the infamous club was MV Eglantine, which was hijacked on Monday with 23 crewmembers onboard. Read more.
Ten Filipino sailors were among the 23 seafarers of mixed nationalities who were abducted by ransom-seeking Somali pirates off the coast of India this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday, reports PhilStar.com.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Filipinos' ship MV Eglantine, a Cypriot-flagged and Iranian-owned vessel, was hijacked by pirates on March 26.
The vessel's principal, KISH Shipping, is based in Tehran and has already coordinated with the Filipinos' local manning agency in Manila, Hernandez said, adding the victims' family members were already informed about the incident.
The latest kidnapping incident brings to at least 57 the number of Filipino seamen being held by armed brigands off the coast of Somalia, where they keep other foreign seafarers on board several vessels they hijacked.
As a policy, the Philippine government does not negotiate nor pay ransom to kidnappers, but gives ship owners the free hand in negotiating for the release of abducted Filipino sailors.
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas joined three previous flag State signatories in signing a Declaration Condemning Acts of Violence Against Seafarers today at the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association luncheon at the Connecticut Maritime Association, says Oceans Beyond Piracy. The signing was officiated by William H Watson, Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Affairs for the Republic of the Marshall Islands who was representing Oceans Beyond Piracy, and was witnessed by representatives of the other signatory States.
The Declaration was signed in August 2011 by the Republics of Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama and states their commitment to ensure better documentation of the violence faced by seafarers. The Declaration was inspired by the Human Cost of Somali Piracy study released in June of last year by Oceans Beyond Piracy, which found that thousands of seafarers were subjected to gunfire, beatings, confinement, and in some cases torture. Read more.
The US Coastguard Journal of Security and Safety at sea, 'Proceedings', Spring 2012 edition is available to download (PDF) HERE. Contributors include Giles Noakes of BIMCO, Todd Offutt of MARLO and Donna Hopkins - US Department of State Coordinator, Counter Piracy and Maritime Security. If you do not know who they are in terms of counter piracy, then we recommend you read it.
Former International Maritime Organisation (IMO) secretary general Efthimios Mitropoulos told a salvage conference that whilst many salvors suffer from the same lack of recognition as seafarers’, the maritime industry does acknowledge the vital role they play in protecting the marine environment - Nautilus International.
The speech was only Mr Mitropoulos’s third following the end of his 8-year term leading the IMO and he made clear his praise for the industry and their role in saving life and property at sea.
‘The industry you represent deserves appreciation and should command high respect for the work you do,’ Mr Mitropoulos said in his keynote address to the International Salvage Union associate members’ day.
‘All of those who are involved in marine activities should recognise the importance and value of your services.’
He paid tribute to the salvage crews who often do not hesitate to risk their lives to save others and also acknowledged the risk of criminalisation which affects salvers in the way as seafarers.
[OCEANUSLive would like to take this opportunity to add to the praise bestowed on the Salvage industry, and in particular the support given to us by the ISU Secretary General, Mike Lacey, as he winds down to retirement from the role. The work undertaken by salvors, often in highly dangerous conditions, including recovering vessels in pirate waters, is important and largely unheralded. We wish Mike (and John) a pleasurable retirement. And less travel.]
Unsuccessful Attacks/Robberies (All regions):
Indian Ocean - Bolivia-flagged, Iran-owned bulk carrier, MV Eglantine, was attacked in position 07:00N - 069:49E,approx 200nm SW of Minicoy Island at 0330 UTC. Vessel has been declared HIJACKED. Reported 26 Mar. Last reported at 0700 UTC stationary in posn 07:13N - 069:47E. Vessel being tacked and shadowed by Maldivian and Indian forces, however, Maldivian forces halted any rescue attempt as the vessel moved out of its territorial waters.
Somali Basin - An Oman-flagged fishing vessel, Naham 3, has been reported hijacked and 15 crew members taken as hostages in position 06:18.50N – 050:13.04E, around 115nm NE of Hobyo, Somalia. The fishing vessel was located near the coast of Somalia. Further report awaited. Initial report (via IMB) 26 Mar.
Gulf of Aden - A Dhow was reported hijacked by pirates 10nm NE of Ras Caseyr, Somalia, in the vicinity of position 12:00N - 051:22E at 1700 UTC 26 Mar. The Dhow is believed to have a fibreglass hull with a red bottom, white top and a blue strip between the two. The bridge is white in colour with black stripes and Dhow is currently in the Gulf of Aden. Via NSC.
Indian Ocean - A fishing vessel was reported hijacked in the vicinity of position 03:00N - 055:00E, and was taken to the Somali coast 26 Mar. The FV was last seen in vicinity of 05:31N - 048:41E. PAG may be operating in the area. Reported (via NSC) 27 Mar.
EUNAVFOR figures state 8 vessels and an estimated 236 hostages held captive (Updated 28 Mar). Somalia Report indicates 327 hostages held from 25 captured vessels with a further 25 land based hostages, bringing to a total of 352 hostages.
Arabian Sea - LATE Report | seven to eight robbers boarded an India-flagged barge carrier, Ocean 6, from a small rubber dinghy boat, and held a duty seaman hostage at 0450 LT in position 18:53.25N - 072:52.53E, approximately 2.6 nm southeast of Dolphin Lighthouse, Mumbai Anchorage, India. Ships' stores were stolen and the robbers escaped. No crew were injured. Port authorities alerted the coast guard and local police authorities in Mumbai. A patrol boat in area was diverted for further investigation. The VTMS initiated a broadcast to alert vessels in vicinity. Reported 3 Feb.
Malacca Strait - LATE Report | Two robbers armed with long knives boarded a berthed Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, Tequila Sunrise, during cargo operations and entered the engine room via the steering room entrance at 0300 LT, in position 03:23.24N - 099:27.53E, Jetty No.3 MNA, Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia. Duty oiler noticed the robbers and tried to activate the fire alarm but the robbers threatened him with a knife and tied his arms. The robbers took the oiler as hostage to the main deck and then escaped with the stolen ship stores. Alarm raised and robbery reported to the authorities who came onboard to conduct an investigation. Initial report (via IMB) 4 Feb.
Gulf of Aden - LATE Report | While at anchor, six robbers armed with knives boarded Panama-flagged chemical tanker, Ginga Tiger, from the poop deck at 0935 LT in posn 13:09.21N - 048:45.40E. On boarding, the robbers held a crew member hostage and entered the accommodation area. The crew managed to escape and raised the alarm. As the crew was mustered, the robbers escaped with some engine spares. No damage to ship or crew injuries as robbers escaped with engine spares. Reported (via ReCAAP) 22 Mar.
Arabian Sea - Master onboard an Ethiopia general cargo vessel, Andinet, noticed three skiffs approaching at high speed at 1720 UTC in position 22:37.50N - 063:31.80E, around 220nm east of Sur, Oman. The skiffs were observed following the vessel as it altered course to move away. Seeing this, the Master alerted the embarked security team, who fired warning shots when the skiffs were observed 15/20 feet away from the vessel. The skiffs moved away. No casualties to crew and the ship. Initial report (via IMB) 23 Mar.
Arabian Sea - Duty officer onboard a Liberia-flagged tanker, Cosmic Jewel, underway noticed a mother vessel at a distance of 6nm at 1100 UTC: in position 20:49N – 062:27E, around 190nm ENE of Sur, Oman. At a distance of 4nm, the mother vessel was noticed launching a skiff. The Master alerted the onboard security team. The skiff approached the vessel at a speed of around 25-30 knots. The Master raised the alarm, sent a distress message and altered course. As the skiff closed to around 1000 metres, the onboard security team launched a rocket flare and fired two warning shots, resulting in the skiff stopping and moving towards the tanker’s stern. The skiff, with 6-7 pirates, maintained a distance of 1nm and continued to chase the tanker. Only when the armed security team fired more warning shots did the skiff stop and abort the attack, to then return to the mother vessel. A warship responded to the distress message and sent a surveillance aircraft to the location. Initial report (via IMB) 24 Mar.
Atlantic - Two boats approached an anchored Denmark-flagged product tanker, North Princess, during heavy rain at 2215 LT: in Port Au Prince Anchorage, Haiti. Duty crew noticed there were 2-3 armed robbers on each boat and one robber threatened him by waiving a hand gun. One of the robbers, armed with a machete, managed to board the tanker and was seen cutting the mooring rope on the poop deck. The OOW raised the alarm and contacted the pilot station for assistance. On hearing the alarm, the robber jumped into the water, with the stolen stores, and escaped in their boat. A coast guard boat was depstched to the location and manoeuvred around the tanker. The Master heaved up the anchor and proceeded to drift outside the anchorage area. Initially report (via IMB) 24 Mar.
Arabian Sea - Two skiffs approached a Liberia-flagged bulk carrier, Blue Diamond, underway at 1351 UTC in position 14:17N - 056:51E . As the skiffs closed, the Master raised the alarm, increased speed, took evasive manoeuvres and the onboard security team fired warning shots. At a distance of around 0.8nm one skiff fired a RPG towards the vessel. The security team returned fire resulting in the skiffs aborting and moving away. Initial report (via NSC) 25 Mar.
Indian Ocean - Four armed pirates in a skiff chased and fired 30 rounds at a Hong Kong (China)-flagged tanker, LR2 Polaris, underway at 0306 UTC in position 05:21S - 049:18E . The tanker enforced anti piracy measures and the onboard security team returned fire resulting in the skiff aborting the attack moving away. The crew and vessel are safe. Initial report (via NSC) 26 Mar. The pirates were later tracked by EU patrol aircraft and an EU French frigate disrupted the PAG operation. See OCEANUSLive report HERE.
Horn of Africa Pirate Activity (Click on Map for Larger View)
Vessels are reminded that the coalition forces' warships may not be in the vicinity of a pirate attack, subsequently, it is emphasised that seafarers can greatly reduce their chances of being pirated if they follow precautions as recommended in the Best Management Practices, increasing speed and carrying out evasive manoeuvres is a proven deterrent to piracy attacks. BMP version 4 is available at the link above; a high resolution version can be downloaded here.
Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating in the vicinity of any reported positions of attacks and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously. Additionally, registration of vessel movement with MSC(HOA) prior to transiting the region is recommended.
OCEANUSLive.org permits the reproduction of this image providing source and link are published (Map ToU)
Any suspicious activity should be reported to UKMTO in Dubai in the first instance (Email UKMTO or Telephone+971 50 552 3215) and on entering the UKMTO Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) bound by Suez, 78E and 10S.