Maritime Incident Report: December 2023

Our monthly Maritime Incident Report: December 2023 covers maritime security and incidents throughout the Indian Ocean, Europe, West Africa, South East Asia and South America for the period 01/12/23 – 31/12/23.

Executive Summary

Global Map

In our monthly regional overview of significant maritime events, we cover security incidents affecting shipping operations from around the globe.

• Europe. A vessel hit a Russian sea mine in the Black Sea while heading to a Ukrainian grain export port in the River Danube, injuring 2 crew members. A Russian warship was destroyed in a Ukrainian attack on the Crimean port of Feodosia. 
• The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. There was a significant number of maritime security-related incidents in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden region during December which are related to the Yemen Houthi’s support for Hamas against the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip.
• The Indian Ocean, The Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. A commercial ship was hijacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea and taken to a position off the coast of Somalia in Eyl District. Two fishing dhows were also hijacked and it was reported that they were to be used to conduct piracy in the area. 
• West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Only 1 incident of significance in the Gulf of Guinea was reported during December. 
• The South China Sea. There was a marked reduction in the number of incidents reported in the Singapore and Malacca Straits during December with only 2 reported in the region. 
• South America and the Caribbean Sea. There were no significant maritime security incidents to report in December, however, tensions remain high between Venezuela and Guyana regarding disputed land and sea boundaries affecting oil exploration rights. 

1. Regional Report: Europe

Black Sea

Monthly Activity

A Panama-flagged vessel on route to Izmail in Ukraine hit a floating mine which injured 2 of the ship’s crew. The vessel was deliberately run aground by the master to save the ship from Sinking. In Crimea, a Ukrainian cruise missile hit the Russian navy landing ship NOVOCHERKASSK in the port of Feodosia, the ship was reported to be sunk with the loss of 74 lives. 

Maritime Incidents

1. The Black Sea. 26 Dec 2023, 0030 UTC – Missile Strike – Psn: 45° 02’ N – 34° 08 E:
A cruise missile in the Crimean port of Feodosia struck the Russian navy landing craft ship NOVOCHERKASSK. The vessel was reported to be partially sunk with a large loss of life. 

2. The Black Sea. 28 Dec 2023, 1000 UTC – Explosion/Mine – Psn: 45° 10’ N – 29° 44’ E – (approximately):
The Greek-owned general cargo ship, VYSSOS, hit a Russian sea mine which exploded under or near the stern of the vessel. The ship was at the mouth of the river Danube Delta near Bystre when the incident happened. The ship was proceeding to Izmail port in Ukraine for a Cargo of grain. 

Operational Status of Ukraine’s Black Sea Ports

•The Danube ports of Reni, Izmail and Ust-Dunaisk are open with some restrictions.
• Belgorod Dniestrovskiy is open with some restrictions.
• Odesa Port is open.
• Skadovsk port is closed.
• Chornomorsk is reported to be open. Grain export only.
• Pivdenny is open.
• The port of Berdyansk is closed.
• Mykolaiv (Olvia) Port is closed. Cargo operations are suspended for commercial operations.
• Mariupol Port is closed. The city is controlled by Russian forces, and the port is reported by the Russian military to be operational but it remains closed according to Ukraine’s Maritime Administration.
• Kherson Port is closed. Cargo operations are suspended for commercial operations.

2. Regional Report: Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea

Gulf of Aden

Monthly Activity

The security threat to commercial shipping rose sharply during December 2023 with the number of vessels attacked by the Yemen-based Houthis, currently standing at over 20. The majority of these vessels have some link to Israel although in the last week, these links have become more tenuous. The US-led operation ‘Prosperity Guardian’ has stationed several warships in the Southern Red Sea and they have been effective, in destroying Houthi drones and missiles. However, despite the presence of these warships, there is still a significant risk to commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea and Bab al Mandeb Strait. Threats include but are not limited to, UAS drones, missile and rocket attacks, mines, Waterborne IEDs and small arms fire from fast patrol craft. These threats pose a direct or collateral risk to merchant vessels transiting in international shipping lanes or otherwise operating in these areas. Any vessels transiting the Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb Strait should do so with caution and consider taking risk mitigation measures. 

Maritime Incidents

1. The Red Sea. 03 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 54’ 34” N 42° 03’ 00” E:
AOM SOPHIE II, a Panama-flagged bulk carrier was hit by a missile; no casualties were reported. 

2. The Red Sea. 03 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 12’ 33” N 42° 03’ 26” E:
UNITY EXPLORER, a Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier was attacked by a missile/drone which did not impact the ship. 

3. The Red Sea. 03 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 07’ 00” N 41° 20’ 00” E:
NUMBER 9, a Panama-flagged bulk carrier, reported damage following a missile attack. No casualties were reported. 

4. The Red Sea. 06 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 25’ 33” N 42° 12’ 01” E:
DIANELLA, a Liberian-flagged oil tanker reported a drone sighting. 

5. The Red Sea. 10 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 49’ 02” N 41° 46’ 09” E:
CENTAURUS LEADER, a Singapore-flagged vehicle carrier reported being under attack by 2 drones, the drones missed the vessel and exploded in the sea. 

6. The Red Sea. 11 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 17’ 05” N 42° 59’ 47” E:
STRINDA, a Norwegian oil tanker was hit by a drone or missile and a fire broke out. The fire was extinguished and there were no casualties reported. 

7. The Red Sea. 11 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 22’ 44” N 42° 44’ 09” E:
ICARIUS, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier reported drones sighted near the vessel. 

8. The Red Sea. 13 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 47’ 00” N 41° 58’ 00” E:
ARDMORE ENDEAVOUR, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker reported an attempted boarding by unknown assailants in several skiffs. 

9. The Red Sea. 14 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 28’ 08” N 42° 35’ 40” E:
MAERSK GIBRALTAR, a Hong Kong-flagged container vessel reported a possible missile attack, the missile missed the vessel. 

10. The Red Sea. 15 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 07’ 00” N 42° 16’ 00” E:
AL JASRAH, a Liberian-flagged container vessel reported that it had been hit by a drone, no casualties were reported. 

11. The Red Sea. 15 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 08’ 00” N 42° 53’ 00” E:
MSC PALATIUM III, a Liberian-flagged container vessel reported being hit by a missile which caused a fire onboard the vessel. The fire was extinguished and no casualties were reported. 

12. The Red Sea. 18 Dec 2023. Psn: 12° 24’ 34” N 43° 09’ 38” E:
MSC CLARA, a Panama-flagged container ship reported an explosion near the vessel. 

13. The Red Sea. 18 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 09’ 06” N 43° 03’ 07” E:
MAGIC VELA, A Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, reported an attempted boarding by armed men in a small craft. 

14. The Red Sea. 18 Dec 2023. Psn: 12° 08’ 30” N 43° 28’ 020” E:
GREEN TRADER, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker reported a suspicious approach. 

15. The Red Sea. 18 Dec 2023. Psn: 13° 19’ N 42° 47’ E:
SWAN ATLANTIC, a Cayman Islands-flagged oil tanker reported a missile/drone attack that missed the vessel. 

16. The Red Sea. 23 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 40’ 01” N 41° 53’ 00” E:
MT BLAAMANEN, a Norwegian-flagged oil tanker reported the sighting of a missile/drone near its location. 

17. The Red Sea. 23 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 17’ 00” N 42° 26’ 00” E:
MT SAIBABA, an Indian-flagged oil tanker was hit by a drone. No casualties were reported. 

18. The Red Sea. 25 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 48’ 45” N 42°35’ 38” E:
NAVIG8 MONTIEL, a Liberian flagged oil tanker reported a drone attack 50nm west of Hodeida, the drone missed the vessel. 

19. The Red Sea. 25 Dec 2023. Psn: 14° 15’ 34” N 42°34’ 19” E:
MSC UNITED, a Liberian-flagged container ship reported a drone attack that missed the vessel. 

20. 31 Dec 2023. Psn: 15° 02’ 46” N 41°33’ 41” E:
MAERSK HANGZHOU, a Singapore-flagged container ship was attacked by 4 small craft, the onboard security team engaged the attackers until a US helicopter arrived on the scene and destroyed 3 of the attacking boats. 

3. Regional Report: The Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea

Persian Gulf

Monthly Activity

In December, a commercial bulk carrier was hijacked 600 miles East of Puntland, and the crew was taken hostage. This appears to be the work of an active Somali Pirate Action Group (PAG) and is probably linked to the incidents involving the Iranian fishing vessels seized by locals in November. At least two other fishing Dhows appear to have been taken by local militia with reports that they are to be used to conduct piracy. There were no incidents to report in the Persian Gulf. 

Maritime Incidents

1. Arabian Sea. 14 Dec 2023, 1200 UTC – Vessel Hijacked – Psn: 12° 03’ 00” N – 61° 20’ 20” E:
Around 600nm East of Bossaso, Somalia, armed persons boarded and hijacked a bulk carrier that was underway and sailed it towards the Somali coast. The Malta-flagged RUAN is Bulgarian-owned with a crew of 18. Its last known position was 34nm northeast of Eyl in Puntland. 

2. Arabian Sea. 22 Dec 2023, 1420 UTC – Fishing Vessel Hijacked – Psn: 05° 51 N – 49° 39 E (approximately):
A Yemeni fishing vessel was hijacked 13km north of Eyl in Puntland. The local authorities report the fishing vessel was last seen heading north along the Yemeni coastline. Military authorities assess the vessel may be used for future piracy attacks. The vessel’s name is EMARAT 2 and is white in colour. 

3. Arabian Sea. 30 Dec 2023 1058 UTC – Fishing Vessel Hijacked – Psn: 10° 30 N – 52° 10 E:
A Dhow was hijacked near Hafun, in Puntland Somalia. The Dhow was last sighted in Afbarwaqo (an anchorage between Eyl and Hobyo). Please note, the given coordinates are approximate. 

4. Regional Report: West Africa and Gulf of Guinea

West Africa

Monthly Activity

There was only 1 incident and 2 warnings given in the Gulf of Guinea this month. In a violent incident, local fishing boats were attacked off Brass, Nigeria, while the MDAT-GOG warned of the possibility of a Pirate Action Group operating in an area Southwest of Malabo island. 

Maritime Incidents

1. Nigeria. 02 Dec 2023, 1000 UTC – Armed Attack – Psn: 04° 10’N – 06° 20’E:
Local fishing boats were attacked when operating off Brass, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. According to local media reports, 1 fisherman was killed, 1 was wounded, and four were abducted. The gunmen took the fishing boat engines and fishing gear. please note, the position given is approximate. 

5. Regional Report: South East Asia

South East Asia

Monthly Activity

Only two incidents were reported in this region in December, which is the lowest figure for some months. One vessel was boarded in the Singapore Strait and another was boarded at Dumai anchorage in Indonesia. 

Maritime Incidents

1. Indonesia. 06 Dec 2023 1701 UTC – Boarding/Theft – Psn: 01° 07’ 0” N – 103° 31’ 8” E:
While underway a vessel was boarded by assailants. The 3rd engineer discovered missing engine spares when he went to retrieve some spares from the engine room spare store. The chief engineer notified the master of the incident immediately. Further investigation revealed that the perpetrators had entered the steering gear room through the poop deck manhole. There were no perpetrators found onboard. The crew was not injured. 

2. Singapore. 26 Dec 2023 1900 UTC – Boarding/Theft – Psn: 01° 43’ 35” N – 101° 26’ 18” E:
While at Dumai anchorage, Indonesia:4 robbers armed with long knives boarded an anchored tanker. They took the Duty AB hostage and tied him up. The onboard shore security watchman abandoned his post when threatened with knives. The duty engineer on routine rounds noticed the robbers and raised the alarm resulting in the robbers escaping with stolen engine spares. The incident was reported to the port authority via the local agent. 

6. Regional Report: South America and Caribbean

South America

Monthly Activity

Simmering tensions between Venezuela and Guyana resurfaced in December. A historic dispute between the two countries surrounds the sovereignty of Essequibo, a 160,000 sq-km jungle region that covers two-thirds of the country of Guyana. Venezuela renewed its claim to the land following the discovery of oil in waters off Essequibo’s coast in 2015. Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to not “use force” to settle their dispute over the oil-rich region of Essequibo, however, a British warship, HMS TRENT arrived in Guyana amid rising tensions.  

Maritime Incidents:

1. Caribbean. 15 Dec 2023, 0815 UTC. Theft – Christiansted, St Croix:
Overnight three dinghies were stolen from yachts. Dinghy 1 was not locked and recovered the next day minus its 20HP Tohatsu engine, battery, tools, and shoes. Dinghy 2 was also recovered, minus its engine. Dinghy 3 was not recovered. 

2. 27 Dec 2023, 0900 UTC. Theft – Chatham Bay, St Vincent:
A padlocked dinghy was stolen overnight while the owner slept onboard a yacht. An air bag in the outboard was tracked by local police to a house in Ashton, but the outboard was not located. 

At Priavo we understand the myriad of threats facing owners and operators today and deploy specialist teams for Super Yacht Security. Our operatives are all former members of the British Special Boat Service or ex-Royal Marine Commandos. They are highly trained, armed professionals in Maritime Security and provide both physical and electronic deterrence whilst on board – with experience of over 6,000 successful armed transits.

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