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Anti-Piracy Weapons Used For Private Army?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa Gotabaya Rajapaksa

By MarEx 2015-03-10 03:26:59

A Sri Lankan court has banned the feared brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from foreign travel, police said on Tuesday, over allegations he used a commercial floating armory as weaponry for a “private army”.

The move against former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the toughest sanction yet on a member of the family that ruled the Indian Ocean island until a surprise election defeat in January.

It is part of a wide probe of alleged corrupt deals and repression by the former president and his relatives.

Police this year seized more than 3,000 weapons in 20 containers from the armory, run by private security firm Avant Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd and docked in the southern port of Galle.

“The Galle magistrate imposed a travel ban on three people: former secretary of defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa; former navy commander and adviser of Avant Garde, Satilaka Dissanayake; and another director of Avant Garde,” acting police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told Reuters.

The armory was a commercial venture that stored weapons for maritime security guards stationed on ships that pass near Sri Lanka, located on one of the world’s busiest sea routes.

The loosely regulated practice of arming merchant ships has flourished in recent years in response to the threat of piracy.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists after a 26-year war, is also being investigated by police over abductions, assaults and murders during his brother’s time in office.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senarathne accuses Gotabaya Rajapaksa of maintaining a “private military” with the floating armory. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has previously denied wrong doing, was not immediately available for comment.

Copyright Reuters 2015.

 


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Iranian Navy foils piracy attempt in Oman Sea

Iranian Navy foils piracy attempt in Oman Sea

The Iranian Navy has rescued a Filipino-flagged cargo ship from pirates in the Oman Sea.

Freighter Panama-Gade was under way in the Oman Sea on 8 March when it was chased for several hours by a number of motorised vessels equipped with light weapons.


 


The Iranian Navy picked up the vessel’s distress call and immediately dispatched naval ships to the vicinity.

The armed vessels fled the scene upon seeing the naval vessels. The naval vessels then escorted Panama-Gade to the Pakistani border.



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Four long-held Thai hostages released by Somali pirates

Four long-held Thai hostages released by Somali pirates

Written by Reuters, Monday, 02 March 2015
Freed Somali pirate hostages.Somali pirates have freed four Thai nationals seized from a fishing vessel at sea in 2010, ending the longest-running hostage drama in the Horn of Africa state, the United Nations said on Friday.

At one time Somali pirates made millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships but increased patrols by international navies in the Indian Ocean have greatly reduced incidents of piracy since 2012.

“I am grateful to see the longest-held hostages released from Somalia, and thank all those involved who made it happen,” said Nicholas Kay, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia.

It was not known whether any ransom was paid for the release.

Of the original 24 crew members of the FV Prantalay, 12 who were taken hostage, six died from illness in captivity while 14 from Myanmar were freed in 2011.

 


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Dry Bulk Shipping Crisis

File photo (c) Shutterstock/Hellen Sergeyeva

ReutersBy Jonathan Saul and Sophie Sassard

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The global slump in demand for dry freight commodities is adding more pain to Greece’s already crisis-hit banks by heaping pressure on many of their shipowner clients, particularly the smaller companies.

This is in part pushing the banks to consider slimming down their shipping portfolios, moves that would also free up needed banking capital, according to bank and shipping-finance sources.

A number of smaller Greek shipping companies have already been looking for non-Greek financing, a maritime lender said.

Greece has secured an extension to its bailout from its European partners, but the danger of it unraveling and of Greece being pushed out of the euro zone still exists, raising the risk that Greek banks could face large deposit losses in the future to add to those they have already had.

But added to this, Greek banks face exposure to dry freight, essentially the transport of non-oil commodities, which is experiencing its worst conditions since the 1980s due to weakening demand for industrial goods from buyers like China.

Greek shipowners together put Greece among the world’s top three bulker-owning nations.

The banking and ship finance sources said Greece’s leading banks are considering offloading part of their shipping debt worth billions of dollars, including dry freight exposure, in a bid to shore up their capital.

“There are several portfolios being shopped around at the moment, including shipping loans,” one banking source said.

“It makes sense for the Greek banks which face a huge liquidity problem to transfer these assets to third parties because they do not have the structures in place to collect bad debt.”

One banker and a ship-finance source said such debt could be attractive for private equity players who have been scooping up distressed assets in shipping due to the sector downturn.

“If they can find buyers, certainly one way to raise cash is through distressed deals. If the pricing is attractive enough, this would be private equity and hedge fund territory,” the ship-finance source said.

A second ship-finance source said Greek banks were also approaching ship owners directly and offering to sell their performing loans back to them at a discount.

“Even at a slight discount, this will help bolster underlying capital and buy some breathing space for the banks. It’s also a good way of getting loans off their books. For ship owners who have cash, it would be a good option too,” the source said.

Bank of Piraeus, Eurobank and their rivals National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank are estimated to have shipping portfolios of at least $10 billion in total, ship industry sources said.

While this is small in global terms, it represents a potentially useful way of freeing up capital.

Eurobank declined to comment when contacted. An executive at Piraeus Bank said they could look into selling some loans if approached by interested buyers, adding that nothing was imminent.

An Alpha official told Reuters the bank was “not considering selling shipping loans.” Some sources said, however, that Alpha, which late last year raised over $500 million in a transaction back by shipping loans, may still examine such moves.

An official with National Bank of Greece, whose chief executive and chairman are expected to step down, said there was “no such decision” on shipping.

DRY FREIGHT WOES

The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index, tracking rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities and seen by investors as an indicator of global industrial activity, has slumped this month to its lowest ever level.

There have already been casualties with three dry shipping firms in Denmark, China and South Korea filing for bankruptcy this month.

“There is more pressure than before especially for the smaller owners,” a leading Greek shipowner said. “The banks in general have been less keen to extend credit to dry bulk owners and the Greeks are the dominant community within that.”

Svein Engh, group head of CIT Maritime Finance, a unit of U.S. commercial lender CIT Group, said it had been approached by small to mid-sized Greek ship owners looking for “alternative financing.”

“We do have the impression it is difficult for a lot of them as historically they would have banked with the Greek banks and they do not really seem to be able to do much or be very active these days.” (Additional reporting by George Georgiopolous and Lefteris Papadimas in Athens and Steven Slater in London, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


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Fuel-Siphoning Attack on Thai Tanker Highlights Spike in Piracy Around Asia

Rates of theft around Asia have risen precipitously in recent years, making the region the pirate capital of the world. Last year it was home to 75 percent of all piracy operations — 183 of the 245 instances of actual and attempted piracy reported worldwide were in Asian waters, a 22 percent increase over 2013.

The stealing of oil from a tanker on Friday shows just how bold the region’s pirates have become. Pirates boarded the Thai tanker Lapin in Malaysian waters and siphoned off its cargo of 2,000 metric tons of bunker oil and five metric tons of diesel before leaving an improvised explosive package onboard and escaping.

Investigators for the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) confirmed the attack on Tuesday. The ship was passing through the Strait of Malacca that separates Indonesia from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Map of the Lapin’s movements (Image via ReCAAP ISC)

The attack was carried out by up to eight pirates suspected of being Indonesian. They boarded the Lapin from a small boat armed with guns and blades, gathered the 15 crewmembers, tied them up, and took control of the tanker. A larger vessel approached alongside onto which the oil and diesel were siphoned.

Before leaving the tanker early on Saturday morning, the men destroyed the ship’s communication devices collected the crew’s belongings. They then told the crew that they’d planted a bomb aboard the tanker.

The crew freed themselves and sailed the Lapin into Thai waters where, with the help of a passing fishing boat, they notified authorities of the attack. The Royal Thai Navy reached the tanker on Sunday and dispatched a bomb disposal unit, which determined that there was no explosive or detonator attached to the “bomb.” None of the crew were harmed.

EU court rules Somali pirates have the same rights as everybody else. Read more here.

The ReCAAP Information Services Center (ISC) Deputy Director Nicholas Teo told VICE News that fuel-siphoning piracy is an ongoing problem.

The Lapin attack was the first successful siphoning incident reported in 2015, but the frequency of these attacks has escalated significantly in recent years. Last year there were 15 such attacks, 12 of them successful — a dramatic increase on the previous three years when a total of only eight cases were reported.

“Illegal siphoning of fuel/oil has become a lucrative business owing to the market price and taxes imposed on fuel,”a recent ReCAAP ISC report said. “With continued demand for fuel/oil in underground markets, siphoning incidents are here to stay.”

Most attacks occurred in the South China Sea or Strait of Malacca. The region offers much opportunity for this kind of piracy: over a third of all shipping passes through the Strait of Malacca, including 15.2 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum transported every day.

“The general trend is that the crew report that people come onboard and lock all but one or two of them in a cabin while the others are left on the bridge,” Teo said. “An unknown boat then comes alongside takes the cargo and leaves. But in most of these cases we find that these stories don’t gel.”

Rather inconsistencies usually render the crew’s version of events implausible and suggest the perpetrators acted with insider knowledge, Teo explained.

There is a required level of knowledge to successfully execute an attack, such as the one carried out onLapin, where fuel is siphoned from one vessel to another.

ReCAAP ISC’s report into siphoning said that perpetrators “would need to have good knowledge or insider information” of the type of manifest onboard, the tanker’s route, and the type of siphoning equipment it carried onboard.

“In some cases we have a particular company or vessel hit multiple times,” said Teo. “There’s one company that was hit six times and another four. We approached these companies and told them that these must be inside jobs.”

The perpetrators need to consider a location to conduct siphoning to avoid detection by authorities, coordinate a vessel to carry the stolen fuel, and have a location where it can be stored for potential buyers. The perpetrators also need to understand market demand, including the type and grade of fuel and the going price for siphoned fuel.

“We cannot conclusively point the finger and say that this group and this company is involved in the incident, but it’s clear that this is being conducted with insider information,” Teo added.

The interior of Lapin’s cabins. (Image via ReCAAP ISC)

Many perpetrators are connected or belong to well-organized syndicates that, with local and perhaps even transnational networks, have channels to sell on the stolen oil. ReCAAP ISC considers there to be at least three major groups conducting syphoning attacks in the region.

The stolen fuel is distributed to illegitimate petrol stations selling cheap fuel across the continent and eventually finds its way into the thousands of boats in South East Asia’s many rivers and around its islands.

“We have come across tugboats and fishing boats that have been modified as fuel tankers, but these can generally only take around 5 tons,” Teo said.

This makes the 2,000 metric tons siphoned from the Lapin seem like quite the load, but Teo noted that it’s all relative. “Some tankers carry around 30,000 tons,” he said.

Notwithstanding the threat of violence, the lack of harm to the crew on the Lapin is typical. The perpetrators of these incidents are generally only interested in the cargo, and rarely have intended to hijack the vessel and kidnap those onboard.


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BOMB PLANTED ON TANKER

Asian pirates have planted a bomb on a tanker during an attack off Malaysia.

The country’s navy said the explosive device remained on the 3,300–dwt Lapin (built 1978) following the raid on Friday, in which 2,000 tonnes of oil were stolen.

The Bangkok Post reported that all 15 crew members were unharmed.

The navy has sent bomb disposal experts to the ship, which was anchored 11km from Pak Bara.

Lapin’s captain Theekhathat Charoensuk sought help from another vessel after navigating the tanker into Thai waters on Sunday.

He said his ship was robbed in the Strait of Malacca on Friday evening.

Up to eight pirates, believed to be Indonesian, stopped the vessel and forced the crew to surrender.

Three were armed with guns, while the others carried swords.

The pirates then manoeuvred a larger vessel to the side of the tanker, before siphoning off the fuel.

They then planted a homemade bomb on the bridge.

The captain said the device looked like TNT held together by electrical wire.

The vessel is operated by Smooth Sea of Thailand.


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Alert – AMSS Operations Centre has received a report – Skiffs approach

Alert – AMSS Operations Centre has received a report A total of three skiffs approached the tanker at speeds of 15-17knts


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Latest News ! POSSIBLE PIRATES – 04/02/2015

Date: 04/02/2015

Time: 05: 00 UTC

Lat: 13°30.0 North

Long: 049°54.00 East

Aggressor: POSSIBLE PIRATES

Description of event: GENERAL ALERT

IRTC, Gulf of Aden

The Master of a Merchant vessel has reported sighting suspicious vessels to UKMTO. Descriptions given in the report are that of 1 boat with a white hull, brown coloured bridge and 10 POB this was sighted at a distance of 3nm at speeds of 7kts towing 4 white skiffs, the suspicious boat then moved towards the vessel to approximately 1nm and stopped. A Further boat was observed on their port bow at speeds of 7kts towing 1 blue skiff and accompanied by 1 white skiff with 2 POB and 1 large outboard engine. The white skiff crossed the vessel’s bow at a speed of 25kts and closed to 1nm on the vessel’s starboard side. The on board armed security team displayed weapons and skiff withdrew back towards the mother boat. Suspicious boats stayed closed to vessel for a further 20-30 minutes. No weapons or ladders were sighted. Vessel has been reported as safe.

Source: Master of Vessel

All vessels within the vicinity of this alert are advised to operate with a heightened level of security and invited to report any suspicious activity to watchkeeper@clearwatertracking.com and ukmto@eim.ae.

Vessels within a 100 nautical mile radius should increase their anti-piracy deterrents in line with Best Management Practices 4. This should include increased twenty four hour anti-piracy watch keeping and radar monitoring. Vessel hardening should be checked and where appropriate bolstered.


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Piracy Alert 30/01/2015

Date: 30/01/2015Time: 10: 08 UTC Lat: 07°.55.38 North Long: 077°.07.11East Aggressor: PIRATES Description of event:

ADVISORY A master of a merchant vessel has reported to the UKMTO at 10:08 UTC 30th January 2015, in position 07° 55.038 N 077° 07.118 E Speed 13.5 knots that he was approached by 1 blue hulled skiff, 6 meters long with a white band. Report states that 7 personnel were sighted wearing yellow raincoats and weapons where identified. The skiff approached the merchant vessel to a distance of 1.5 NM off her port quarter. The vessel took evasive measures and started fire pumps, the on board armed security team displayed weapons and fired warning shots into the air. The Skiff then ceased the approach. No ladders or outboard engines where sighted on the skiff.

Vessel reported as safe.


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Piracy alert 28/01/2015

Location: Arabian Sea

A master has reported to the UKMTO that he sighted 4 skiffs on the ships head at a range of 8NM, at 5NM the skiffs split up into groups 2 skiffs approached the vessel’s port side and 2 skiffs approached the vessel’s starboard side. 1 skiff started to close on the port side and 4 persons were identified on-board, the master mustered the embarked armed security team to the port side and as the skiff closed to within 1NM they displayed their weapons resulting in all of the skiffs turning away. No weapons or ladders were seen and the reporting vessel and crew are safe.

Source: Master of Vessel