The Chinese fishing trawler Hailufeng 11, licensed to fish in Côte d’Ivoire, was taken by pirates on Thursday, May 14 in the Ivorian exclusive economic zone with 18 crewmembers aboard – eight Chinese, seven Ivorian and three Ghanaian. Through rapid and engaged cooperation among a number of different African states and institutions, the vessel was tracked, and the Nigerian Navy was able to interdict it 140 nautical miles south of the Lagos Fairway Buoy at about 2210 local time on the night of May 16.
When approached, the pirates refused to stop, and the Nigerian Navy’s Special Boat Service, embarked on the NNS Nguru, performed an opposed boarding while underway at 9 knots. The dramatic rescue was hugely successful, as all 18 hostages were recovered, 10 pirates were arrested, and the vessel was safely escorted into Lagos.
Image courtesy CRESMAO
Image courtesy CRESMAO
In a week that saw two incidents of theft from vessels at anchor, two incidents of kidnapping off vessels and one suspicious approach across the wider region, the Gulf of Guinea needed a victory. Reminiscent of the success story of the M/T Maximus in 2016, the Navies of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria again cooperated to successfully track, interdict and liberate the Hailufeng 11. Benin and Nigeria both deployed naval vessels in pursuit, and while Nigeria’s Western Naval Command performed the interdiction, the end result was born of commendable cooperation.
Compared to the Maximus, however, there were five main differences: 1. The alert about the attack was raised and disseminated by local authorities; 2. The coordination was provided by the Yaoundé Architecture for Maritime Security; 3. Foreign navies were not involved, 4. Oil was not the focus of the attack; and 5. Nigeria has new legislation and procedures which may help produce a successful legal as well as operational finish.
Even before the owners of the pirated vessel and Chinese government officials began notifying local authorities in a variety of African states that they believed the Hailufeng 11 had been attacked, the Vessel Monitoring System in Côte d’Ivoire’s Fisheries Ministry had triggered an alert. Ivorian Fisheries were instrumental in sharing that information with other Ivorian authorities. The Permanent Inter-Ministerial Commission for State Action at Sea (SEPCIM), in turn, shared it with the Zonal and Regional authorities who disseminated the information further. Whereas there was no communication between the owners of the Maximus and the local authorities in 2016, this weekend’s chain of events shows that there are now means of sharing information rapidly and reliably to effectuate a meaningful national, zonal, regional and even inter-regional response.
Whereas in 2016, the West African navies cooperated successfully to recapture the M/T Maximus, much of that cooperation was ad hoc, born of relationships rather than formalized mechanisms. This weekend’s recapture of the Hailufeng 11 was coordinated by the established institutions of the so-called “Yaoundé Architecture for Maritime Security.”
Under that architecture, states are grouped into Zones, the regions of West and Central Africa each have a Maritime Security Center, and the two regions come together under the Inter-Regional Coordination Center. Importantly, while the Multinational Maritime Coordination Center of Zone E – which includes Nigeria, Benin, Togo and the “landlinked” state of Niger – led the coordination, Zone F, which is where the incident began, and Zone D, which is where it would have ended up had it gone beyond Nigeria, were both supporting with information sharing and assistance in tracking the vessel.
Furthermore, CRESMAO – the West African regional center of ECOWAS – helped coordinate the flow of information, and CRESMAC – the Central African regional center of ECCAS – also helped monitor the situation and provide input. Finally, all of this communication was further facilitated by the Inter-Regional Coordination Center. Consequently, while the Nigerian Navy deserves credit for the operational success, there are a lot of institutions without whom the situation would not have been resolved so quickly and successfully.
In some ways, the role of the Yaoundé Architecture supplanted the roles that the US Navy and French Intelligence provided during the case of the M/T Maximus. Many have argued that the 2016 incident would not have been a success story without the assistance of the foreign navies, working to track the vessel and coordinate the flow of information about it. This time, the Yaoundé Architecture and the states of the region were able to do so without any foreign involvement.
Even before oil futures dipped into negative territory last month, there had been a noticeable shift in focus of piracy incidents in the region away from oil theft and toward kidnap for ransom. In 2019 and 2020 there has been a big climb in the number of kidnapping incidents in the region, and an increase in the number of hostages being taken overall. This has raised concerns about oil installations, container traffic and tanker movements through the region. But the Hailufeng 11 is a fishing trawler, not involved in either the oil industry or maritime commerce. While fishing trawlers are often targeted for use as a mother ship, there is no indication that that was the intent in this particular incident. More analysis will need to tease out the details of this case, but certainly compared to the Maximus, this is quite a different modality of crime.
Finally, and quite importantly, since 2016, Nigeria has passed the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses (SPOMO) Act (24 June 2019) and developed the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedures (HSOP) for interagency coordination on maritime matters. One of the downsides of the Maximus case was that, while it was a counterpiracy success on the water, it was not possible to try it as a piracy case in the courts. This weekend’s incident may prove to be a valuable test of the HSOP, and, ideally, would be the first case tried under the new SPOMO Act. Given the tremendous operational success on the part of so many stakeholders in the region, it would be a good conclusion to have this case be a success story of “legal finish,” as well.
There will be other lessons to draw from this case, as it unfolds, such as what this may mean for countries that are perceived to be “softer targets” for pirates, and what the region may be able to do improve public-private relations for faster alerting and information sharing. But for now, it is a good chance to celebrate an inter-regional success that could be used to spark momentum towards more successes, thereby shifting the risk-reward calculus for piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. While the Covid-19 pandemic has confined billions of people to stay-at-home lockdowns, the maritime space continues to operate, both for legal and illicit purposes. It is remarkable, therefore, that not only was the Hailufeng 11 tracked and recovered after an opposed boarding, but that this all occurred during these difficult times.
Dr. Ian Ralby is CEO of I.R. Consilium, a family firm that provides expert advice and assistance on matters of maritime and resource security, international law and transnational crime. He previously spent four years as an Adjunct Professor of Maritime Law and Security at the US Department of Defense’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, and three years as a Maritime Crime Expert for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
A massive fire broke out at the Port of Beirut on Thursday, incinerating a warehouse full of tires and oil within the port’s free zone. The same area was heavily damaged in the ammonium nitrate explosion that leveled the central port area and the adjacent waterfront on August 4. According to Lebanon’s civil defense agency, […]
Over the course of the past five days, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority arranged a medical intervention for an injured aboard a freighter in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday evening, the Spliethoff tweendecker Dolfijngracht called for assistance while under way about 1,000 nauical miles off the coast of Western Australia. A crewmember had sustained serious […]
The naval forces of the US and Bahrain recently staged a joint force training exercise which showcased the interoperability between coalition warships operating I the Arabian Gulf. Coalition Task Force Sentinel executed combined exercise Sentinel Shield supporting Sentry and Sentinel patrols in the coalition’s area of operations. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones and […]
DSV Belgium has solid experience in the transport of pharmaceutical products for different customers. With a pharma hub based at Brussels Airport a lot of experience and know-how has been built up over the years. Last weekend, the forwarder handled one hundred million mouth masks, an important milestone for its Belgian organisation that has put […]
The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in eCommerce logistics, says that the latest statistics showing that global e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion in 2018 are a further vindication of its decision to enter this sector of the international freight market several years ago. The latest available estimates, up 8% from 2017, were recently […]
The UK government’s new post-Brexit tariff regime will result in both winners and losers. The new regime is set to replace the European Union’s Common External Tariff from the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31, 2020. The UK’s commitment to the ongoing Brexit process and ending the UK’s transition from EU membership […]
Astral Aviation has increased its intra-African network with cargo freighters during the pandemic. While there has been a reduction in capacity to, from, and within Africa, which has been caused by a stoppage of passenger flights and limited frequencies on freighter aircraft, Astral Aviation continues to operate cargo freighters from its Nairobi hub to 13 destinations […]
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident that occurred on April 15, 2019, involving the towing vessel DeJeanne Maria which struck the end of a submerged dredge pipeline while pushing two spud barges to the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on the Mississippi River in Pass […]
With close to 100 daily cargo flights operated to a destination network spanning more than 65 cities across six continents, Emirates SkyCargo is delivering essential supplies and commodities to people around the world. The air cargo carrier is currently operating 11 Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, each with a capacity to transport about 100 tonnes of […]
Best known as a leading passenger airport serving Germany’s most populated federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf has become transformed into a vital distribution point, during the COVID 19 pandemic, for medical equipment and other life-saving goods, mostly from China. Gerton Hulsman, managing director of cargo operations, reports that the handling teams are working hard to […]
Operators can continue to use pilots and other crew members who have unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak in support of essential operations. Additionally, this Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and […]
Emirates SkyCargo has expanded its weekly scheduled cargo flight operations to cover 75 destinations across six continents. Through its wider reach, Emirates SkyCargo is able to transport essential commodities and other urgently needed cargo more rapidly across the world, allowing exporters and importers across markets to benefit from direct access to widebody cargo capacity. Some […]
Global commercial aviation charter company Albion Aviation Group is reporting that it is seeing a considerable uptake in its professional cargo broker training courses from the current global pandemic crisis and surge in charter demand. “We have completed a number webinar courses for a whole of host of companies, looking to manage their own cargo […]
The First DP2, Twin-Hulled SOV in the World, NB72 Groene Wind met the Sea on September 29. 2020 in Yalova, Turkey. The Groene Wind will be directly chartered to Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy for the maintenance of the Rentel and Mermaid & Seastar (known as SeaMade) offshore wind farms in Belgium. This is the first DP2, […]
Callan Marine is serving as the prime contractor to the Texas Department of Transportation for a maintenance dredging project located at the Bolivar Ferry Terminal, in Galveston, Texas. Work began in May and is estimated to be complete in late July 2020. The project consists of the removal of 600,000 cubic yards of material and […]
Network Airline Management and TAAG Angola Airlines are pleased to announce the renewal of their long-term freighter aircraft contract by an additional 12 months, sealing an ongoing partnership for the foreseeable future. Operating a regular weekly scheduled service from Liege, Belgium, to the capital of Angola, Luanda, Network Airline Management provides a Boeing 747-400F aircraft […]