With Eye on Russia, US Navy Reestablishing Its Second Fleet
The United States Navy is re-establishing its Second Fleet, responsible for the northern Atlantic Ocean, nearly seven years after it was disbanded as the Pentagon puts countering Russia at the heart of its military strategy.“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Friday.“Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships…
Australia to Stress International Law in South China Sea Dispute
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will on Tuesday hail the role of international law in settling regional conflicts, comments apparently aimed at bolstering Australian efforts to build a coalition against Chinese assertiveness. Bishop, in a speech ahead of a special meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, will not name China but will argue that international law will stabilise a region strained by rival claims in the South China Sea. "The rules-based order is designed to regulate behaviour and rivalries of and between states…
U.S. Navy Punishes Senior Staff in Deadly Warship Collision
Commanders of U.S. warship removed after cargo ship collision; seven sailors killed in June collision. The U.S. Navy has removed the two senior officers and the senior enlisted sailor on a U.S. warship that almost sank off the coast of Japan in June after it was struck by a Philippine container ship, the Navy said on Friday. Multiple investigations have yet to apportion blame for the accident that killed seven U.S. sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer the USS Fitzgerald. However, the punishments are the first public admission by the U.S.
US Navy Temporarily Relieves Commander of Stricken Warship
The U.S. Navy on Tuesday said on Tuesday it has temporarily relieved, for medical reasons, the commander of a warship involved in a crash with a container vessel in Japanese waters that killed seven American sailors. The collision between the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine-registered ACX Crystal on June 17 resulted in the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed by Islamist militants in Yemen's Aden harbour in 2000. At least six investigations have been launched, including two U.S.
Saudi Navy Detains IRGC Boat
The Saudi navy has captured three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from a boat seized last week as it approached the kingdom's offshore Marjan oilfield, the Saudi information ministry said on Monday. Relations between the two countries are at their worst in years, with each accusing the other of subverting regional security and support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. "This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped," a statement from the ministry's center for international communications said. "The three captured members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are now being questioned by Saudi authorities," it said, citing a Saudi official.
Shipping Routes via Oman Opened to Give Qatar Food Lifeline
Qatar and container lines have launched new shipping services via Oman in an effort to sidestep a port ban in neighbouring countries and secure a food lifeline after other Gulf states severed ties with Doha last week. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some other Arab countries cut diplomatic, travel and trade ties with Qatar last week, accusing it of supporting Iran and funding Islamist groups, accusations Doha denies. The severing of air, sea and land transport links has closed crucial import routes for Qatar and its population of around 2.7 million people who are dependent on imports for most of their food needs. China's COSCO Shipping Lines Co Ltd, Taiwan's Evergreen and Hong Kong Kong's OOCL have suspended container services to and from Qatar.
Oil Slips on Mideast Rift Worries
Group of Arab states cuts all ties with Qatar; tankers going to/from Qatar barred from Fujairah port. Oil prices slipped further below $50 a barrel on Tuesday on concerns that a diplomatic rift between Qatar and several Arab states including Saudi Arabia could undermine efforts by OPEC to tighten the market. Benchmark Brent crude oil was 10 cents a barrel lower at $49.37 by 1110 GMT, down around 8 percent from the open of futures trading on May 25, when an OPEC-led policy to cut oil output was extended into the first quarter of 2018. U.S. light crude was down 10 cents at $47.30.
Philippines: Japan Offers Anti-Piracy Help
Japan has offered to send patrol ships to deal with a growing piracy threat in the southern Philippine waters bordering Indonesia and Malaysia, a senior Philippine defence official said on Tuesday. A surge in piracy off parts of the southern Philippines is forcing ship-owners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up costs and shipping times. Dozens of sailors have been taken captive by Abu Sayyaf. Japanese vice minister Ro Manabe offered the assistance at a meeting in Tokyo on Friday and expressed readiness to contribute to efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia "in addressing piracy and terrorism", said Raymund Quilop, assistant defence minister for assessments and international affairs.
Islamist militants free Korean, Filipino from cargo ship
Islamist militants in the Philippines allied with Islamic State freed on Saturday a South Korean cargo ship captain and a Filipino member of his crew held captive for more than three months on a southern island, an army spokesman said. Park Chulhong, skipper of the South Korea-registered carrier DongBang Giant 2, and Filipino Glenn Alindajao, were brought to the house of the island's governor after they were released by the militants of the Abu Sayyaf group, Major Filemon Tan said. Members of a Muslim rebel faction cooperating with the government in the south of the predominantly Christian country had helped arrange the release, Tan told reporters.
Sulu Sea Kidnappings a Threat to Shipping - IMB
The Sulu Sea between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines has become dangerous for merchant shipping due to rising threat of kidnappings, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Tuesday. The Sulu archipelago is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaeda linked group notorious for kidnappings and, increasingly, piracy. The IMB report was released just hours after armed men attacked a fishing boat, killing eight fishermen, in what appeared to be a pirate attack off the southern Philippines.
Pirates Attack in Philippine south Leaves 8 Dead
Armed men killed eight fishermen in what appeared to be an attack by pirates in dangerous waters in the southern Philippines, a coast guard spokesman said on Tuesday. The apparent act of piracy came as Philippine soldiers were given a six-month deadline to end Islamist militant threats, including those made on cargo ships in south, where a long-festering insurgency has been exacerbated by the growing influence of the Islamic State militant group. About two dozen sailors and tourists were taken captive by Islamist militants last year in attacks on tug boats and yachts in the Celebes and Sulu seas, raising concerns among defence officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines about Islamist militancy and piracy.
Nigeria to Pursue peace in restive Oil-producing Delta Region
Nigeria's government will seek a lasting peace settlement with militants in the oil-producing southern Niger Delta region in 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a New Year's message on Saturday. Attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria's energy hub, coupled with low oil prices, helped push Africa's biggest economy into recession - the first in 25 years - in the second quarter. Crude oil sales account for two-thirds of government revenue in the OPEC member country. Attacks by militants…
India, Indonesia Firm Up Maritime Co-operation
Asia’s most populous democracies and emerging powers, have firmed up a blueprint for enhancing maritime cooperation and resolved to jointly combat terror. India and Indonesia enjoy a good maritime partnership. India has backed Indonesia on the latter’s escalating dispute with China on territorial claims in South China Sea. This nexus is expected to irk China. “Indonesia is our most important partner as part of our ‘Act East’ policy,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in a joint statement with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Islamist Group Targets Commercial Vessels in Sulu, Celebes
The Philippines-based Islamist group ASG has conducted tens of attacks against vessels in the Sulu and Celebes seas since March 2016, although since October it has increasingly targeted larger commercial vessels, heightening the risk to global shipping in the region, says a report from Protection Vessels International Ltd. Previously, the group had only been able to abduct seafarers from slower-moving tugs and fishing boats and has kidnapped tens of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors since they first started targeting vessels in March.
Suicide Bomb Kills 29 at Somalia's Main Port
A suicide truck bomb hit the entrance of Somalia's biggest port on Sunday, killing at least 29 people, police said, an attack claimed by Islamist al Shabaab militants. The fighters said they were trying to disrupt protracted parliamentary elections - part of efforts to rebuild the fractured nation after decades of war. The three-month vote is due to end on Dec. 29. Gunfire rang out after the blast at Mogadishu Port, Mohamed Hussein, a worker there, told Reuters. Two others said work had been halted and staff sent home.
Indonesia Maritime Threat Assessment
Militant group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) has conducted frequent kidnap for ransom attacks in the Sulu and Celebes Seas since March 2016, says a report by Protection Vessels International Ltd. Islamic State-affiliated ASG has successfully extracted millions of dollars' worth of ransom payments for individual releases and has decapitated several hostages when ransom demands have not been met. In November, ASG shifted towards targeting commercial vessels and successfully abducted six crew members from a bulk carrier.
Ships More at Risk After First Somali Pirate Attack in Years
Merchant vessels sailing through busy shipping lanes between Somalia and Yemen may be underestimating the risk of piracy and terrorism following two attempted attacks last month, maritime officials say. More than 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil supplies pass through the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, a major shipping lane also used to move exports and commodities such as food between Asia and Europe. The European Union's counter-piracy naval force (EU Navfor) confirmed on Nov. 4 that six armed men attacked chemical tanker CPO Korea 330 nautical miles (610 km) east of Somalia on Oct.
EU to Continue Libyan Coast Guard Training after Attack on Migrants
The European Union will go ahead with training for the Libyan coast guard this week, days after a coast guard vessel allegedly attacked a boat carrying migrants, causing four of them to drown. The German humanitarian group Sea-Watch recovered the four bodies after an attack on Friday that its members say was carried out by a vessel with the markings of the Libyan coast guard. "The aim was to start the training this week, and this week it will start," the spokesman for the EU's Operation Sophia, Antonello De Renzis Sonnino, told Reuters. The bodies of the four migrants reached Palermo, Sicily, on Monday aboard the Norwegian rescue vessel Siem Pilot, which carried 1,100 rescued migrants and 13 other bodies.
Crew Kidnapping Persists Despite Piracy Slowdown -Report
Despite a decline of piracy activity in several high-risk areas, a high threat of crew kidnapping and hijacking remains in Southeast Asia and West Africa, according to a recent report from specialist crisis prevention and response consultancy NYA International. Overall piracy activity in the third quarter of 2016 declined in global hotspots compared to the previous quarter, as Southeast Asia and the East Africa and Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA) both saw drops in reported piracy incidents, and West Africa notably experienced a drop in severe incidents such as attacks and hijackings, according to NYA’s Q3 2016 Piracy Assessment. In West Africa, piracy activity in Q3 2016 declined in severity compared to the previous quarter, when 16 attacks and nine hijackings were reported.
Houthis Say Ready to Help Investigate Attacks on Shipping
Yemen's dominant Houthi group denied any role in missile strikes on U.S. warships in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and offered to help investigate attacks on international shipping in the area, the news agency controlled by the group reported on Thursday. The U.S. military on Thursday launched cruise missiles on three coastal radar sites in areas of Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthis, retaliating after failed missile attacks this week on a U.S. Navy destroyer, U.S. officials said. U.S. officials have told Reuters there were growing indications that Houthi fighters, or forces aligned with them, were responsible for Sunday's attempted strikes, in which two coastal cruise missiles designed to target ships failed to reach the destroyer.
Libyan Oil Port Takeover Gives Edge to Eastern Commander
Less than a fortnight after forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar swept into four of Libya's oil ports, tankers are loading, production has jumped, and momentum has shifted firmly in the divisive former general's favour. For Haftar's opponents, and for Western powers, the move on the ports was alarming. Haftar and his backers in eastern Libya have been in a stand-off for months with a unity government in Tripoli, blocking any parliamentary vote to endorse it and challenging the U.N.-mediated deal to unify Libya. How Haftar and his allies will use control of the country's major oil exports - whether to leverage political advantage under that U.N. deal, or to extend military control across Libya - is still uncertain. But risks to stability are clear.
Indonesia Ferry Blast Kills Two
An explosion on a speedboat carrying 35 foreign passengers and four crew members in Bali, Indonesia has left two people dead and 18 other tourists injured. According to the local police, the boat was ferrying tourists from Bali to Lombok and exploded enroute, leaving two people dead and 13 others injured. According to AFP, an Austrian woman was killed along with a second female foreigner, whose nationality was still being verified. Two German citizens were injured while nationals from Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain were also among the passengers.
Libyan Commander's Seizure of Oil Ports Risks New Conflict
Libyan forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar said on Monday they had tightened their control over four major oil ports, casting a Western-backed project to unite Libya and revive oil exports into deep uncertainty. Haftar's forces met little resistance as they seized the terminals at Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, Zueitina and Brega in an operation launched on Sunday, displacing a rival armed faction aligned with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The advance is the latest power struggle over the OPEC nation's energy assets, after the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi and the chaos that followed left the North African country splintered into competing rival armed factions.