There has been one suspected hijacking in West Africa over the past week. The Panama-flagged oil products tanker MARINE EXPRESS was reported missing from Cotonou Anchorage by her owners shortly after midnight on 1 February. At the time of writing, the vessel’s location and condition of the crew is still unknown. The incident comes just weeks after the Marshall Islands-flagged MT BARRETT was reportedly hijacked in a similar area and the cargo later stolen. It is highly likely that the criminal syndicate suspected of boarding MARINE EXPRESS would have disabled or damaged much of the ships equipment, changed any visible references to her name, and potentially removed key crew ashore before proceeding east towardsthe Nigerian coastline and relieving her of cargo.
Notwithstanding a lack of appropriate security arrangements in both cases, that a second incident should occur in close proximity to several naval vessels is highly questionable. Cotonou, home to the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre [Zone E], will be under renewed pressure to deliver against the Yaoundé security framework.
There has been one report of a WBIED attack off Yemen in the past week. The incident is the second failed attack of its type in as many months. It comes as Riyadh has suffered an offensive by the secessionist STC, backed by Emirati units, in the de facto capital Aden. While Emirati forces have since made it clear they remain committed to the wider Saudi endeavour, these developments lay bare the complex aims of the coalition and its inherent shortcomings. This period of weakness will likely result in efforts by their opponents to capitalise on the current impasse. In recent days, AQAP has gained some ground in Shabwa while the Houthi appear to have strengthened their resolve in Taiz.
Maritime crime off Vung Tau, Vietnam, has fallen over 50% since 2016. The typical incident involves three individuals, often carrying bladed weapons or firearms, staging opportunist robberies against cargo vessels. Boardings tend to take place during the hours of darkness, either while vessels are at anchor or underway. In contrast, maritime crime off Chittagong is up by a quarter over the same period. While incidents here are also usually opportunist boardings by night, there is a more pernicious threat to local seafarers across the Meghna river into Bhola district, where fishing disputes routinely result in kidnappings.
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