Tag Archives: Oman

ARABIAN SEA | Piracy threatens regional economy

Piracy is threatening the UAE’s coastal economy as attacks are being staged following a brazen and successful ship hijacking outside Salalah Port in Oman.

The Fairchem Bogey, managed by Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, based in Mumbai, was seized on Saturday as it was awaiting berthing instructions. All 21 Indian sailors on board were taken hostage.

Tim Stear, the global head of maritime security for control risks based in Dubai, said attacks off the coast of Oman could endanger the gulf maritime industry, which includes cruise ships, superyachts and marine transportation.

“A year ago there was a view that you could sail into the Arabian Gulf without having to encounter problems if you were coming from the Maldives, for example,” he said. “But it has all brought it home now that this is not an ‘off the coast of Somalia’ problem. This is also an Arabian Sea problem.”

The attack on a ship so close to the Omani coast and in the Sultanate’s coastal waters is one of the most audacious raids on a maritime vessel and a sign that hijackers are becoming more daring, even as intergovernmental task forces have deployed navies to protect the vital shipping corridor off the Somali coast.

“Whether it is off the coast of Oman or somewhere else, we are appalled at this terrible situation,” said Keith Nuttall, the group commercial manager of Gulftainer, the Sharjah ports operator, who noted that there were currently hundreds of seafarers in Somalia on captured ships. “I know it is a complex issue, and that many navies of the world are working on combating this, but it is still a depressing state of affairs.”

The scourge of piracy has huge potential to disrupt the region’s maritime industry. The Gulf is a crucial body of water for the transportation of the region’s oil wealth, with nearly 40 per cent of the world’s traded oil supply passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, the region has a growing cruise line industry and has stated its ambitions to be a global destination for sailing competitions. Ras Al Khaimah narrowly missed out on becoming the location for the America’s Cup race last year because of a legal dispute between the two competitors, but it was piracy that was behind the decision last week to abandon plans for the Volvo Ocean Race to sail directly to the Gulf from South Africa.

Boats will sail from Cape Town to an undisclosed port before being transported closer to the finish in Abu Dhabi. In the next stage of the global race, the boats will sail from Abu Dhabi over the New Year and will then be transported to another undisclosed location before continuing on to the stage finish in China.

“We have consulted leading naval and commercial intelligence experts and their advice could not have been clearer: ‘Do not risk it’,” said Knut Frostad, the chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Veesham Shipping, based in Dubai, which owns oil tankers and ships that transports cars and trucks, has fallen victim to several hijackings over the years, including an attack from Somali pirates as well as a more recent incident off the coast of Nigeria. Much of its work focuses on Africa, including carrying humanitarian goods to the more secure southern area of Somalia. The attacks and the persistent threat of more incidents has caused a great deal of personal anguish for Ajay Kumar Bhatia, the owner of Veesham. “We always sleep in fear when we put vessels in that area,” he said.

The financial implications are just as worrying. Insurance companies often require companies such as Veesham to hire security guards on board. A journey to Africa could cost more than US$80,000 (Dh293,836) in insurance and security costs alone, Mr Bhatia said.

Source: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/economics/piracy-threatens-coastal-economy

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PIRACY NEWS | “Fairchem Bogey” yet to be traced

O navio-tanque Fairchem Bogey (foto Gerd Seidel)

Mystery shrouded the whole episode of hijacking of chemical tanker MT Fairchem Bogey with 21 Indian crew members onboard reportedly by Somali pirates from Salalah port in Oman on Saturday.

The  incident was reported through the UK Maritime Trade Operations and there has been no communication from the hijackers till late Sunday.

“We are still not sure as to the demands of the hijackers who are probably from Somalian coast. So far they have not contacted the owners or the company officials or any member of designated authorities,”  Directorate General of Shipping chief, Satish Agnihotri told Deccan Herald.

MT Fairchem, a 26,350 DWT (Dead Weight Tonnes) chemical tanker sailing under Marshall Islands flag  was in the designated anchorage area of Salalah port at Oman, awaiting berthing instructions when the hijackers managed to board the ship from a vessel that was ferrying cattle load.

The ship prior to reaching Salalah had discharged cargo at Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia and from Oman port and was to proceed towards China.

According to Anglo-Eastern Management officials, all crew members, “appear safe with no injuries.”

Giving details about the hijacking, the shipping company officials disclosed that when Omani Coast Guard approached the vessel the pirates asked them to move away to avoid casualties to the crew.

The ship, according to sources, has scurried off towards Somalia direction from Oman.
International maritime operation Oceanus, specialising in dealing with high seas piracy, in its statement mentioned that the hijacked vessel was probably, “transiting southwest of the hijack position and is likely making its way to Somalia.
However, it is possible that the vessel may be used as a mother ship to launch attacks on unsuspecting merchant ships, despite the unfavourable weather conditions prevailing during the Southwest monsoon.”

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/185372/hijacked-ship-yet-traced.html



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MYSTERY IN THE HORMUZ | Radar data shows two vessels near supertanker before blast

Radar records indicate two small vessels were near a Chiba-bound supertanker when it was damaged in a suspected attack in the Strait of Hormuz in late July, transport ministry sources said Tuesday.

Data retrieved from the tanker’s voyage data recorder shows two small vessels changing directions several times and making other suspicious moves, raising the possibility they may have been involved in the purported attack.

The Japan Transport Safety Board and the government-run National Maritime Research Institute are analyzing images in the tanker’s data recorder to see whether there is any link to a terrorist attack, the sources said.

The National Police Agency’s National Research Institute of Police Science is checking substances collected from the damaged area of the ship to check for traces of an explosive, the sources said.

The 160,292-ton M. Star was damaged in a suspected explosion while sailing in Omani waters in the western part of the Strait of Hormuz on July 28, leaving one crewman slightly injured.

The radar data shows the small ships sailing parallel to the tanker, passing it and then turning around. At one point, one of the vessels disappears from the radar, a move believed to indicate it had moved to a blind spot, according to the sources.

Operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., the tanker was on its way to Japan carrying crude oil from Das Island in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, with 31 crew members — 15 Indians and 16 Filipinos — aboard.

The government has set up an investigative panel formed by experts from the transport, foreign and defense ministries as well as the police. Outside experts are also included.

Edited from http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/nn20100818a2.html

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Mystery in the Hormuz | VLCC boat bomb suspected

EXPLOSIVES inspectors are nearing consensus that a VLCC was damaged last week by a small boat blowing up near the hull, a US intelligence source told Fairplay today.

The theory that an improvised explosive device aboard a small craft in the Strait of Hormuz was detonated 10-20 m from the tanker M. Star’s waterline, “is gaining traction” among the dozen or so investigators still working to solve the mystery in the UAE, the source said.

In parallel, investigators have ruled out an attack by a rocket-propelled grenade (no scorch marks, no entry) or a rogue wave.

The possibility of a collision – with either a stray container or a mine drifting since from the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 or the two Gulf Wars – is still being investigated, said the source, who is close to the investigation. The damage took place in Omani territorial waters, but also near Iran.

Divers and other investigators have found evidence “reminiscent of the damage seen in the Limburg attack”, the source said – referring to the detonation of a boat laden with explosives near the commercial ship Limburg in October 2002, and near the US destroyer Cole in October 2000.

The Mitsui OSK Lines VLCC was damaged on 27 July. Photos show the VLCC with a large, square-shaped dent in its hull just above the waterline. Its crew of 31 people reported an explosion.

One seafarer was slightly hurt. Inspections are continuing today off Fujairah.


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Mystery in the Hormuz: cracks appear in M Star

Cracks have appeared in the hull of the MOL tanker which continues to be the focus of an investigation into a mysterious incident off Oman on Wednesday.

The Japanese owner of the 314,000-dwt M. Star (built 2008) will not back down from its assertion that “an explosion” near the Strait of Hormuz caused a huge dent in the ship’s hull but has denied there was any fire damage.

The Marshall Islands-flagged VLCC remains at anchor at the UAE port of Fujairah as authorities appear baffled at what occurred in the early hours of Wednesday leaving one crew member slightly injured.

Masanori Kobayashi, general manager of MOL’s marine safety division, told TradeWinds on Friday that a dent measuring 14 metres wide and seven metres high is visible above the waterline on the starboard side of the ship.

Kobayashi also said that a number of “small cracks” have developed on the hull due to apparent impact from “an outside cause”. The safety chief insisted, however, that there has been no water ingress or leakage of any of the cargo of cruse oil.

Despite repeatedly referring to the incident as “an explosion”, Kobayashi said there is no evidence of any scorch marks on the hull nor are there any obvious signs of paint marks from another vessel or object. He continued by saying at no time during or after the incident was there a fire onboard the tanker.

MOL was quick to point to an explosion as the result of the incident and has not ruled out an attack or collision. The Japanese owner did, however, tell TradeWinds on Thursday that damage from a freak wave cause by a low-level regional earthquake was “not likely”. A UAE port official has also distanced himself from earlier claims of a freak wave being behind the incident, instead suspecting a collision of some sort.

TradeWinds had earlier been told by MOL spokesperson Kazumi Nakamura that representatives from the US Navy as well as from the UKMTO had boarded the tanker at Fujairah. However, Nakamura on Friday said the company later found out the US Navy had not been onboard.

Reiterating the company’s stance on the probable cause of the incident, Nakamura added on Friday: “Since there are dents on the starboard side hull and damage to the crew quarters area that appear to have been made from the outside, we believe the damage was caused by some external force”.

Amongst other scenarios, the investigation is likely to examine the possibility that the ship was struck by a submarine or a sea mine. An attack by terrorists or Somali pirates has not been ruled out.

By Eoin O’Cinneide in London

Source: Tradewinds

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MARITIME | Inquiry begins on VLCC puzzle

Damage to the hull and paint suggests a collision happened (Therearenosunglasses’s Weblog)

A TEAM of 10 investigators – aided by US and UK specialists – is today trying to resolve the mystery over how a Mitsui OSK Lines VLCC was damaged earlier this week in the Strait of Hormuz.

M. Star is being inspected off Fujairah in the UAE, the company also told reporters in Tokyo.

Sources close to the investigation told Fairplay today that neither an entry hole nor scorch marks were found near the dent, so a propelled weapon attack is now viewed as unlikely.

Photos show the VLCC with a large, square-shaped dent in its hull just above the waterline. Its crew of 31 people reported an explosion, but Masahiko Hibino, MOL’s tanker safety chief, declined to comment on whether the blast could have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade attack by pirates, Bloomberg reported.

The ship is flagged with the Marshall Islands register, which told Fairplay today its inspector is now in Fujairah “to attend the vessel”.

Weapons authorities at Jane’s told Fairplay today that the photos alone do not establish what caused the impact.

A Fujairah port official told reporters yesterday that a rogue wave had caused the damage, rather than an attacker, but Hibino called that explanation unlikely.

An authority on structural elements on ships also pointed out to Fairplay that a floating hazard, such as a stray container, could have caused the dent and made an explosive noise on contact. The crew has not indicated whether other vessels or objects were nearby when the ship was dented on 27 July.

Cyrus Mody, manager of the International Martime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre, said yesterday a pirate attack would be “difficult” at present because of rough seas in the Persian Gulf.


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SHIPPING | “Freak wave” damages Japan supertanker off Oman

United Arab Emirates/TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese oil tanker damaged by a freak wave in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, was making its way to a port in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

The ship’s owners reported an explosion onboard and said it may have been caused by an attack but a port official who spoke to the crew said there was no evidence.

No oil leaked from the supertanker, named M Star, although some members of the 31-strong crew were injured, said a general manager at the UAE port of Fujairah where the ship was due to arrive at 5 p.m. (1300 GMT).

“The cause of the incident was a freak wave and there is damage in the upper accommodation decks of the ship and a few injured people on board,” he told Reuters.

“The ship is not being tugged and there is no damage to the engine.”

He said the ship would be checked and should be able to resume its journey to Japan.

Oman’s coastguard cited “a tremor” as the cause of the incident, while an official from the Omani transport ministry said it was “business as usual” in the Strait of Hormuz.

A seismologist in nearby Iran said an earthquake with a magnitude of about 3.4 happened in Bandar Abbas.

Captains of other ships near the incident also mentioned the earthquake, Attollah Sadr, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

Earlier, Japan’s transport ministry said an “explosion” had occurred at around 00:30 a.m. local time.

“A crew member saw light on the horizon just before the explosion, so (ship owner Mitsui O.S.K.) believes there is a possibility it was caused by an outside attack,” Japan’s ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain issued a statement saying the cause of the explosion and extent of damage was unknown.

“Initial damage assessment from the ship’s owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd, Japan, is that one life boat was blown off the ship and there is some damage to the starboard hatches,” it said.

On board were 16 Filipino and 15 Indian crew members.

The tanker, bound for Chiba, near Tokyo, is carrying around 2.3 million barrels of Qatar Land and Abu Dhabi Lower Zakum crudes, industry sources said.

Any impact on the Asian spot crude market would be negligible and the tanker would have taken three weeks to arrive in Japan, traders said.

“This (event) won’t stop the flow of crude, so there will be no impact on what is able to be bought,” a Tokyo-based crude trader said.

Around 17 million barrels per day of oil flow via the Strait of Hormuz, and Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan’s total imports.

Additional reading: Japan tanker hit by quake, no sign of attack-Oman

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