China Builds Cutter X for Nigeria

NavyRecognition Photo, Model of P18N OPV on the CSOC stand during AAD 2014
Photo credit: NavyRecognition, Model of the P18N OPV on the CSOC stand during AAD 2014. Click to enlarge.

NavyRecognition reports delivery of another cutter similar in concept to Cutter X. This time it is first of two being built in China for Nigeria.

P18N Offshore Patrol Vessels have a displacement of 1,700 tons, a length of 95 m, width of 12.2 m and beam of 3.5 m. It is powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines (I believe this is essentially the same engine as in the Webber class WPCs–Chuck). The maximum speed is 21 knots. The endurance of the vessel is 20 days at sea (range 3000 nautical miles at 14 knots) for a crew of 70 sailors.

The range and speed are certainly adequate for their purposes, but “nothing to write home about,” and the hangar is only suitable for UAVs, but it is actually better equipped in some ways than the proposed Cutter X with a 76mm gun and two 30mm. This probably contributes to the size of its 70 member crew.

Nigeria is modernizing their forces. The Nigerian Navy took over the former USCGC Chase in 2011, and they expect to get the Gallatin in 2015. Nigeria is the source of much of our imported oil, and they have an ongoing insurgency and a serious piracy problem.

If the helicopter on the model pictured above looks familiar, it is a Z-9, a Chinese license built version of the French helicopter that was the basis for the H-65. Chinese variants include both ASW and attack helicopter versions.

Changes in the Fleet

Defense Industry Daily has an update on the status of the National Security Cutter (NSC) program. The seventh (Kimball) has been ordered and they report how the previously ordered cutters are progressing.

HII receives a $497 million fixed-price, incentive-fee contract from the U.S. Coast Guard to build WMSL 756, the 7th Legend Class National Security Cutter. Construction is expected to begin in January 2015, and delivery is scheduled for some time in 2018.

Ingalls has delivered the first 3 NSCs. WMSL 753 Hamilton is 81% complete and will deliver in Q3 2014; WMSL 754 James is 52% complete and will launch in April 2014; and WMSL 755 is scheduled for launch in the Q4 2015.  Sources: HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding Awarded $497 Million Contract for Seventh U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter”.

Hamilton will be the first of two NSCs expected to be based in Charleston. Note the contract prices quoted are not the full cost of the ships.

Gallatin is being transferred to the Nigerian Navy, making this the second 378 transferred there. This leaves the Coast Guard with ten “high endurance cutters”, seven 378s and three NSCs, all on the West Coast.

The eighth Fast Response Cutter (FRC) has been commissioned and the ninth has been delivered.

 

Counter Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

As Somali piracy seems to have quieted down Indian Ocean, the problem has gotten worse in the Gulf of Guinea, along the Atlantic Coast of West Aftrica. gCaptain is reporting the European Union is making an effort to help navies and coast guards in the area.

Not long ago a cutter was in the area as part of the US Navy administered Partnership program. The Deployable Operations Group trains their personnel, and Nigeria was the recipient of the former USCGC Chase, one of our retiring 378s.

Piracy Update, 20 November, 2011

Somalia/Gulf of Aden/Indian Ocean:

NATO Reports show at least three attacks and at least three incidents of vessels being approached in a suspicious manner by skiffs that appeared to be pirates, but there were no successful attacks reported.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/INS_Suvarna.jpg/1024px-INS_Suvarna.jpgINS Suvarna, sister ship of INS Sukanya. Photo: INS SuvarnaM. Mazumdar/ Bharat-Rakshak. Original uploader was Mittal.fdk at en.wikipedia. Permission: CC-BY-SA-3.0.

India continues to deal aggressively with pirates. “The Hindu” reports the actions of the INS Sukanya (1,890 tons full load, 331′ loa) when five skiffs approached vessels in the five ship convoy she was escorting,

“While two of them managed to escape, INS Sukanya successfully intercepted the remaining three boats and…nabbed 26 Somali pirates with six AK 47 rifles, 12 magazines and about 300 rounds of ammunition.

“This is the fifth successful anti-piracy operation conducted by INS Sukanya in the course of her ongoing patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden that commenced in September, the Navy said.”

The uncertainty introduced by the Kenyan invasion of Southern Somalia is having an effect on the ransom pirates are demanding for the ships and crews they currently hold. Ransom demands have been cut as the pirates hope to “close the deal.

There are reports that Ethiopia has also moved troops into Somalia to support the Kenyan invasion.

While Kenya and Ethiopia move against Al Shabaab rebels in the South, there is a report the locals in Puntland are moving against pirates enclaves in the Northeast.

Nigeria/Gulf of Guinea

gCaptain reports three people were kidnapped after eight armed men boarded an offshore supply vessel, the MV C-Endeavour, belonging to Edison Chouest Offshore, off the coast of Nigeria. The report came by email from Kurt Glaubitz, a spokesman for Chevron.

Mekong River:

The attack that left 13 Chinese dead, reported in the last update, has resulted in China dispatching up to 1,000 armed police to work in the territory of Burma, Thailand, and Laos, to protect its trade on the Mekong.

Armed Security Guards:

The Marine Log reports H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives, “…strengthens existing authorities against piracy, as well as improves an existing training program to instruct mariners on acceptable use of force against pirates.  It authorizes armed security on vessels carrying government impelled cargo through high risk waters, and includes a report on ways to improve U.S. efforts to track ransom payments and the movement of money through Somali piracy networks.

“‘Somali pirates have vastly expanded the range of their attacks on merchant vessels.  But even more alarming, the pirates have dramatically increased the number and viciousness of their attacks in recent months,’ said LoBiondo (Coast Guard Subcommittee Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ). ‘To protect American seafarers, this legislation will strengthen an existing training program on use of force against pirates.  Additionally, it will provide authority for government agencies to reimburse shippers for armed security aboard vessels carrying U.S. aid to the region.‘”

The Maritime Executive reports there is a growing consensus in the US, that failure to provide armed security may open up ship owners to legal liability for failure to provide seaman with a safe working environment and a seaworthy vessel.

Elsewhere authorities remain unconvinced. The Netherlands is telling its ship owners that, if they use private armed security guards, they could be subject to criminal prosecution.

“Jumbo Shipping from Rotterdam and Vroon Shipping based in Breskens have both said they will carry armed guards while sailing under the Dutch flag.

“The ministry of defence has set up special teams to help combat the threat of piracy but the shipping firms say this is not a solution. ‘You have to order them six weeks in advance and we cannot work like that,’ the Jumbo spokesman said.

“Denmark, Spain, Norway and Britain do allow shipping firms to use private security guards while travelling close to the Somali coast.”

Piracy Update–23 October, 2011

As noted previously, Somali pirates seem to be having a harder time this year. Additionally we continue to see both increased acceptance of the efficacy of armed security guards and increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Eaglespeak shows how the piracy problem off Somalia has increased in recent years with an animated display of attacks on a yearly basis from 2005 to Oct. 2011 that dramatically shows both the increasing number of attacks and the progressively greater geographic distribution of attacks.

The good news is that while the number of attacks is up, the number of seizures is down from this time last year. “Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010.”

It is probably premature, but the Somalia Report is suggesting we may be seeing an end to piracy in the region as we have come to know it. Others are not convinced.

Since the last report, it has been a bad couple of weeks for Somali pirates. Looking at the NATO data base, there have been six attacks, but none have been successful. In fact, the period has been a net loss for pirates with one of their previously seized mother ships, the 100-ton fishing dhow Hibid Fidi, being recaptured by British commandos, freeing its Pakistani crew.  A few days earlier Brits from the RFA Fort Victoria, with support from a USN helicopter from the frigate USS De Wert, broke up an attack on an Italian vessel, the 56,000-ton bulk carrier Montecristo. The vessel’s crew of 23 had taken shelter in the ship’s citadel. Meanwhile Somali authorities claim to have captured 15 would be pirates.

File:FortVictoria Plymouth.jpg

 Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Victoria, from Wikipedia Commons,  by User:Sreejithk2000

Use of the Fort Victoria, an underway replenishment ship, shows again that, at least for this type of sea control, you do not necessarily need a frigate, any armed vessel with a helicopter, boats, and space for an armed boarding team can do the job.

There is more information on the Montcristo attack here including information that the crew may have been steering the ship toward assistance from inside the citadel.

Armed Security Teams: There is more evidence of the acceptance of private armed security teams. A Japanese Company is hiring private security, while the Japanese government considers placing military teams on Japanese flag ships, and Italy is forming ten teams of six soldiers each to guard Italian Flag ships.

Gulf of Guinea: Here the motivation and methods appear to be different, but the area is becoming increasingly dangerous. 19 attacks have resulted in eight tankers have been hijacked in 2011 compared with none in 2010. The attacks below reflect only the last two weeks. From the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Piracy website:

1. NIGERIA: Vessel (JOAN CHOUEST) attacked by pirates on 17 October near the offshore Oso oilfield, near Bonny. (Open Source)
2. NIGERIA: Offshore tug/supply vessel (WILBERT TIDE) boarded by pirates on 17 October while underway near the offshore Oso oilfield, near Bonny. The Bangladeshi master was kidnapped as 20 armed men from two speedboats boarded the vessel. (Open Source)
3. NIGERIA: Product Tanker (CAPE BIRD) was hijacked by pirates on 8 October approximately 90 nm south of Lagos, Nigeria, and was released on 13 October. No further information on whether a ransom was paid or the cargo of oil was stolen. (Open Source)

There is some indication of how piracy can work in an area where there is still a viable national government.

Ghana has ordered two 46 meter patrol boats from China (very similar in size to the Fast Response Cutter) in an effort to beef up their anti-piracy forces.

Piracy Update, 1 Sept., 2011

Background:

If you are new to this topic there is some good background here in the form of advice from the International Sailing Federation intended primarily for yatchsmen. “ISAF Warning Letter”.

Changing Tactic:

Too early to tell if this is a trend, but the pirates seem to be changing their tactics attempting to swamp the defenses of even armed vessels by using as many as twelve skiffs, “Pirates Hunting in Packs.” Chart here. This incident took place near Somali shores where it is easier to gather a large number of boats.

Frustrated by an armed guard while it was under way, pirates subsequently seized a chemical tanker after the armed guard had left, while the ship was anchored in port in Oman, taking 21 hostages. Chart here.

Geographic spread:

The pirates seem to be extending their reach to operate beyond the waters patrolled by naval forces. There is a report that they may now be exploiting a business arrangement with the remnants of the Tamil insurgency to allow them to operate south of India in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, “Recommended Reading “Deadly Business”-at American Shipper.”

Piracy also seems to be spreading to the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s Atlantic coast where oil is the prize.
Gulf of Guinea map

 A report carried by the Associated Press quoted Bergen Risk Solutions, a Norway-based consultancy:

“Our investigations indicate that the organized group responsible is based in Nigeria and has high-level patronage in that country,” it said, with prominent Nigerians having often been accused of involvement in the lucrative black market for oil and fuel.  This cargo, Bergen suggests, has been sold in: “several West African ports, possibly including Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire and Port Gentil in Gabon.”

There are some indications that there is a recognition of the problem and a desire to address it, “Steps toward and Iintegrated African Coastguard” and “West African Piracy Cooperation.”

Some successes:

The Naval Institute blog has a “feel good” story of how an attack was thwarted by the cooperative efforts of British and American forces, “MV Caravos Horizon Rotorheads and the Royal Navy in Maritime Security Operations,” by LCdr B. J. Armstrong. If you want to know more about the Navy’s MH-60S which was involved, there is more info here. The unfortunate aspect, is that these pirates are still free to go on to molest other ships. Another telling of the story here.

Prosecuting pirates has been difficult. The US has done it, but many countries operate under a “catch and release” philosophy. At least the Dutch have begun to act forcefully.

Armed Security Teams:

Their record remains unblemished, in that no ship with an armed security team has ever been taken by 21st century Somali pirates. In regard to the use of armed teams on merchant ships, the most common counter-argument is that this will raise the level of violence. Here is a counter to that, pointing out, that has not been the case, and in fact if the level of violence is increasing, it has been due to the actions of military forces in the area. “Lloyds List, Piracy and the Armed Deterrent.”

Is Congress more of a threat than pirates?:

There was an interesting discussion here that puts the piracy problem in perspective, “Pirates vs. Congress: How Pirates Are a Better Bargain.”

 Getting at the root of the problem:

There is some indication that the US may be attempting to get at the roots of the piracy problem, which are of course on shore in Somalia. “U.S. steps up clandestine operations in Somalia

 

Piracy Update, July 6, 2011

This is coming relatively soon after the last update, but there have been several interesting developments:

As a result of a pirate attack, a 144,000 ton Very Large Crude Carrier has been set afire and abandoned in the Gulf of Aden, 20 miles south of Yemen. The crew of 26 was rescued by the cruiser USS Philippine Sea. This occurred in the area most heavily patrolled by counter piracy forces.

Britain like the Netherlands is considering allowing their merchant ships to arm themselves.

There is a prediction that the pirates will start using heavier weapons. This sort of escalation has been predicted in the past, we’ll see.

Information dissemination has provided a grim and thought provoking post on the future of Africa and Al-Qaeda that touches on piracy, Somalia, and Al Shabaab. It provides a lot of background for USCG efforts in Nigeria, Yemen, and Djibouti and African Partnership station in general.

ADDENDUM:

The UN has informed Reuters there is a financial link between some pirate organizations and Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, Al Shabaab. Not that the terrorist group is engaged in piracy itself, but rather it seems to be “taxing” Somalia’s most profitable industry. This may be viewed as making it illegal to pay ransom. Comment here and here.