USNI News, 20 January 2015 & Reuters, 15 January 2015
The Pentagon has renamed the Air Sea Battle (ASB) concept. Now called the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver (JAM-GC), the revised plan will work to better integrate land attack elements into the joint concept, which has faced criticisms for being too broad and unspecific in its scope. Not considered a strategy or a doctrine, the ASB/JAM-GC is designed to advise commanders on courses of action if they encounter such weapons or equipment, including sea mines, electronic jammers, or guided missiles, as well as criteria for designing operations in which such threats can be expected. The concept was originally formed to address a lack of investment in key capabilities during the early 2000s, particularly in areas like anti-submarine warfare or mine-countermeasures. In related news, the Navy has also announced that it will reclassify future ships built under the modified Littoral Combat Ship design as frigates. The original design of the LCS had faced criticism for lacking the defensive measures that would allow the ship – a key component of the ASB/JAM-GC – to operate independently as a traditional frigate. Whether the modified LCS will be up to the task is likely to be the subject of further debate. The Navy’s current frigate fleet will be fully decommissioned when the last Oliver Hazard Perry-class ship is retired in September.
United States: “Military Sealift ship runs aground near Okinawa”
Stars and Stripes, 22 January 2015
The US Navy Military Sealift Command ship USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak ran aground six nautical miles off the coast of Okinawa on Thursday. None of the 127 civilian crew were reported injured, and an early assessment of Sgt. Matej Kocak has not found any hull leaks or damage. Tugboats are on the scene to stabilize the vessel, and the US Navy is working with Japanese officials to free the ship. Military Sealift Command vessels provide fuel, ammunition, and stores to Navy vessels while underway at sea, and are commanded and crewed by civilians.
CTV News, 21 January 2015
Three stowaways were discovered on board the Royal Dutch Navy supply vessel Karel Doorman after it departed West Africa earlier this month. According to officials, three men slipped on board via anchor ropes while the vessel was alongside in Dakar, Senegal, and reportedly hid in a life boat and other parts of the ship. After being discovered, the men underwent medical examinations and showed no signs of Ebola symptoms or any other acute illness. The men will be handed over to border police once Karel Doorman arrives home on Saturday. Analysts note that Karel Doorman, which has delivered two shipments of EU aid to West Africa, including mobile hospitals, protective equipment and vehicles, had not been scheduled for any additional deliveries prior to the apparent security breach.
Reuters, 22 January 2015 & Times of Malta, 22 January 2015
A Maltese patrol vessel rescued more than 80 migrants from a small boat in the Mediterranean on Thursday. There were initially concerns that the Ebola virus might be present amongst the migrants, as some of them apparently originated in West Africa and at least 20 of them had reportedly died during the voyage. Officials, however, reported that none of the migrants showed any symptoms of Ebola, noting that the virus has a three-week incubation period and the risk that the migrants are carrying the disease is low, especially considering that they spent time in Libya before crossing the Mediterranean. Analysts note that the incident highlights how health security is an additional challenge associated with undocumented migrant arrivals.
International Maritime Bureau press release, 12 January 2015
The number of worldwide piratical attacks reported in 2014 fell to 245 from 264 the year prior, an eight-year low and a decrease of nearly one half since the 2011 peak. The main piracy hot-spot for 2014 was Southeast Asia, which accounted for 16 of 21 hijackings (compared to 12 in 2013), as well as 141 general incidents, defined as hijackings, boardings, and failed attacks (compared to 128 in 2013), most of which occurred in Indonesian waters. The purpose of many of the Southeast Asian hijackings was to siphon fuel from tankers, presumably for black market resale. Meanwhile, other 2014 hot-spots include West Africa, which reported 41 attacks, and Bangladesh, with 21 incidents. Indonesia is working to better patrol its vast archipelago under its new maritime axis doctrine, which aims to have a fully operational coast guard sometime this year.
The full IMB piracy report can be requested here.
IHS Maritime 360, 12 January 2015
The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP) issued an update to its July 2014 report on at-sea fuel robberies in Southeast Asia last week. The latest paper identifies three organized criminal groups as being responsible for the bulk of regional robberies. The first is based in the Singapore-Strait of Malacca region and has had the least success, in part due to regular patrols by the Malacca littorals, while the other two groups operate in the South China Sea and Indochina areas. The report suggests that the groups usually have insider information regarding target ship routes, manifests, and on-board siphoning equipment, and only two incidents have occurred in which an incorrect vessel was boarded. ReCAAP has recommended that shipping companies share more information with local authorities and better vet their crews in order to limit the rising number of such incidents.
The full updated ReCAAP report can be accessed here.
CBC News, 16 January 2015
The federal government and Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding announced the signing of a contract for six Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) for CAD $3.5 billion last Friday. The deal allocates $2.3 billion for the actual construction of the AOPS, the first of which is predicted for delivery in 2018, while the remaining $1.2b is earmarked for infrastructure, such as jetties, and ammunition and spare parts. The Ottawa-Irving contract guarantees the provision of five AOPS for $3.5b, which is presumably a hedge against the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report last October in which it warned that six AOPS could not be built for the then-budget of $3.1b, and that four vessels is more feasible.
Gulf of Guinea: “Ghana’s navy frees hijacked tanker, arrests pirates”
Reuters, 18 January 2015
The Ghanaian Navy has freed a tanker that had been seized by pirates off the coast of Nigeria, arresting eight suspects in the process. Details of when MT Mariam was seized were not released, but the ship’s owners are said to have used the vessel’s emergency beacon to direct Ghanaian authorities to the ship when it entered Ghanaian waters. The ship’s cargo was said to have already been transferred by the time the ship was located. Forces from Benin, Nigeria, and Togo were involved in the hunt, and are now searching for the vessel carrying the stolen cargo. The Ghanaian Navy is one of the best-equipped navies in West Africa, with a range of patrol boats and fast attack craft, including surplus US and German vessels as well as four 36-metre Snake-class patrol vessels that were delivered from China in 2012.
New Zealand Herald, 20 January 2015
Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) officers have responded to critics who charged that they were too passive in their pursuit last week of illegal fishing vessels operating in the Southern Ocean. The 1,600-tonne Protector-class offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington pursued three vessels caught fishing illegally within New Zealand waters last week, but attempts to board the ships were prevented by the fishing crews and Wellington had to return to port due to low fuel. Critics have since questioned why the RNZN did not use greater force in trying to board the vessels, though Wellington‘s Commanding Officer (CO) said that force was not warranted, and that sufficient evidence was collected that will ensure criminal charges can be brought against the boats’ operators. The CO also noted the danger of operating in the southern latitudes, which were scene to small icebergs, five-metre swells, and 50-knot winds at the time of the operation.