Maritime Global Trade Roundup – May 17, 2024

In the Spotlight

What’s inside?

    Houthi Rebels, Somali Pirates, Intrigue in Malta…

    Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea are far from surprising, unfortunately, but now Somalian pirates are also attacking there? This week’s Maritime Global Trade Roundup has details on the ship the Houthis claimed to attack on May 15, three MSC ships that were attacked by the Houthis, and the Somali piracy incident. 

    In another part of the world, the number of commodity STS meetings conducted by dark/gray fleets vessels in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Malta increased in the last two weeks by a whopping 1,000%! Keep reading to learn why this happened. 

    Recent Red Sea Attacks 

    • Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they targeted a U.S. Navy destroyer and a commercial ship in the Red Sea on May 15. But the attack on the warship apparently happened nearly two days earlier, according to the AP, and the vessel intercepted the missile targeting it. Previous to this incident, it looked like attacks had slowed…
    • On May 9, 2024, the Houthis claimed attacks on three MSC ships – the MSC Diego (IMO: 9202649) and the MSC Gina (IMO: 9202663) in the Red Sea, and the MSC Vittoria (IMO: 9299551) in the Indian Ocean. None of the vessels were hit or damaged from the attacks. The vessels were attacked due to their Israeli affiliation.
    • All three vessels are Panama-flagged container vessels owned and operated by MSC and its subsidiary companies.
    The MSC MSC Diego, MSC Gina, and MSC Vittoria’s sailing paths on May 9, 2024.
    • The UKMTO reported a suspected attack in the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates on May 10. The vessel that was attacked was the Chrystal Arctic (IMO: 9332640), a Marshall-Islands flagged oil-product tanker owned and operated by the Singapore-based company “Executive Ship Management Pte Ltd.” The ship had armed guards onboard and was not harmed. Later the pirates were seized by the European Union’s “Operation Atalanta”.
    The Chrystal Arctic’s sailing path on May 10, 2024.
    • As mentioned above, the Houthis claimed to attack a U.S. warship and a merchant vessel named “Destiny” on May 15. Windward’s Maritime AI™ platform found a vessel that might correlate with the attacked vessel, the Destiny (IMO: 9565716), a 170-meter Liberian-flagged bulk carrier owned and operated by a Greek company, “Cosmoship Management Inc.” The vessel has been engaging in ongoing dark activity since April 18, 2024.
    The Destiny’s sailing path on April 16-18, 2024.
    • Since the beginning of the Red Sea Crisis, the Houthis have attacked 112 vessels linked to Israel, the UK, and the U.S. in the Red Sea, with several vessels heavily damaged, like the Rubymar. The Houthis claimed that they will escalate their attacks against Israeli vessels and Israel-linked vessels.

    What’s Happening in Malta? And Why? 

    • The Greek navy started conducting exercises in the Laconian Gulf on May 1 and caused a decrease in Russian oil transshipments in the area. The Laconian Gulf was a known hotspot for oil transfers following the sanctions against Russian oil, caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    • The Greek Navy decided to extend its operation in the area on May 9 and called on all vessels not to enter the area, as mentioned in their Navtex message. According to official sources in Greece, the decision to extend the advisory was primarily targeted at deterring ship-to-ship (STS) transfers of Russian oil in the Greek EEZ. The operation is expected to last until May 24.
    • It should be noted that in the past, Denmark conducted the same kind of navy exercises to curb Russian oil flow within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
    Greece’s Irakleio Station Navtex message regarding the navy exercises in the Laconian Gulf. Source: Hellenic Navy Hydrographic Service
    Greek navy drill area in the Laconian Gulf based on the Greek Navtex advisory.
    • Windward data shows that in the past two weeks, there has been a 73% decrease in the number of commodity STS meetings conducted by dark/gray fleet vessels in the Greek EEZ

    Interestingly, the number of commodity STS meetings conducted by dark/gray fleets vessels in the EEZ of Malta increased in the past two weeks by over 1,000%. In the past, Malta was a popular hub for oil transshipment, but in recent years, lost its popularity as a STS hub. While the increase is still low, it might be showing a possible change of trends due to the Greek navy operation. 

    • It should also be noted that in other EEZs within the Mediterranean, no significant increases were observed.

    Commodity STS meetings by dark/gray fleets vessels in the Greek and Maltese EEZs. January 1, 2023-May 11, 2024

    • It is possible that due to the ongoing Greek navy drill, dark and gray fleet vessels are using other locations close to the Greek EEZ to conduct their STS operations, and possibly transship sanctioned Russian oil.
    • By using Windward’s Maritime AI™ platform and ship-to-ship classification search, it is possible to detect how geopolitical events affect oil trade patterns and how they can shift:
      • Geographical locations
      • Methods used to avoid detection (dark activities, location {GNSS} manipulation, etc.)

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