NATO SHIPPING CENTRE THREAT SUMMARY FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN:
The SECURITY and TERRORISM threat towards merchant vessels in open waters in the MEDITERRANEAN is LOW.
The purpose of this report is to provide a current assessment on the threats posed to merchant vessels transiting the Mediterranean in open waters. The risks to vessels when operating closer to the coast or within confined areas and port exit/entry is clearly worse due to the opportunities it provides for an attacker. It is therefore recommended that the Company Security Officers pay special attention and advise their ships accordingly.
NATO Shipping Centre would greatly appreciate reports and experiences from shipping in order to gain an understanding of all threats in the Mediterranean so that we can issue relevant advice for merchant shipping. All information received will be treated in confidence.
The Western Mediterranean
It is well known that military forces along the Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian coastline regularly patrol along their territorial waters (TTW) to ensure integrity and security is maintained. Nonetheless, it is difficult to monitor the entire coastline continuously, therefore a number of illegal activities continue to take place within the western Mediterranean.
Drug trafficking from the Moroccan coast to the south Spanish coast using small, modern high speed vessels is observed regularly. Law enforcement agencies in the region continue to fight these activities. Other than a navigational consideration, these fast craft pose no direct threat to commercial traffic, with their main focus being the delivery of illegal cargo.
Illegal migration routes from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are used predominantly by economic migrants to get into the European Union. The usage of these routes by Violent Extremists is not confirmed, but cannot be excluded.
Often migrants and refugees arrive in Spain by land, mainly to the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). Additionally, there have been sea arrivals to the south of Spain. This represents a significant increase in arrivals to Spain. Due to the normal transit routes used by merchant vessels, the probability of encountering a migrant boat in the WMED, while possible, is assessed as LOW.
The SECURITY and TERRORISM threat towards merchant vessels in open waters in the WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN is LOW
The Central Mediterranean
The dynamic has changed considerably within the Central Mediterranean with regards to the ongoing internal conflict within Libya. The country's complex political and security situation has made it difficult to reach a political settlement between the UN officially recognized GNA and LNA.
Shipping operations are not entirely free of risk, although the threat level has decreased significantly across the board. Libyan parties may still be motivated to attack transiting vessels if they believe it advances their interests, or if their targets are associated to hostile political factions. There are occasional reports of commercial vessels being detained by LNA patrols along the northeastern coasts, and Operation IRINI regularly inspects vessels coming to Libya, which can cause delays.
Finally, vessels transiting through the area should remain aware of the threat posed by migration. However, conditions are generally secure in all open ports.
While the ongoing turbulence and political vacuum in Libya does not directly impact transiting merchant vessels; as stated previously the potential for regional crisis to impact within the maritime domain is always possible, even more so in this region.
There are a number of warning areas, TTW claims and areas of potential miscalculation that all CSOs should be aware of – these are outlined below.
Gulf of SIRTE TTW Claim: Since 1973, Libya claims TTWs in the area south of 32deg 30mins North
LNA SELF DECLARED "NO SAIL ZONE" (NSZ): The NSZ was declared by the LNA in December 2015. The area is officially undefined in time and space; however some references indicate the area stretches from Derna to Al Bayda on the Eastern Libyan coast and may also extend along the coast to Benghazi. It is most likely aimed at deterring the transit/smuggling of weapons and other materials to Libya.
A number of arbitrary merchant vessel have been seized near the Cyrenaica coast. The seizures show that the LNA-forces consider the No Sail Zone as active. Merchant vessels are frequently hailed when sailing near the Cyrenaica coast. Vessels have been requested to divert to the coast in order to be inspected and finally detained. In order to be released a fine has to be paid to the LNA authorities. Based on this information we issue the following advice to merchant vessels:
· Stay well clear of the Libyan shore.
· Proceed with extreme caution to any Libyan port and seek further information from Libyan authorities and shipping agents.
· If hailed when transiting of the Libyan shore, take caution if you are request to divert for inspection.
EU NAVFOR MED OPERATION IRINI: The European Union has launched a military operation of the coast of Libya in order to enforce the UN Arm Embargo in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2292(2016). In this perspective an increased amount of naval units can be expected
of the coast of Libya. Aerial, naval and satellite assets have been deployed to contribute to stemming the flow of weapons into Libya. To accomplish their task, the military forces carry out procedures known as hailings, friendly approaches and boardings. For more information see their homepage https://www.operationirini.eu/
Since the summer of 2019 there have been frequent observations of loss and interference of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) on board vessels and aircraft operating in the area roughly bounded by MALTA – ZUWARAH (west Libya) and MISARATAH (Libya). Merchant vesseks are advised to pay special attention when operating in this area and report similar observations to NATO Shipping Centre.
The SECURITY and TERRORISM threat towards merchant vessels in open waters in the CENTRAL MEDITERRANEAN is LOW
The Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean is an extremely busy region and similar to the Central Mediterranean and Libya, it suffers from the ongoing regional conflict in Syria. A wide range of military units from various countries are also conducting operations. The benefit of this military presence is also a prudent visible deterrence against any terrorist or criminal related activity that could take place. While the threat to commercial shipping is currently assessed as LOW, CSOs should take appropriate consideration/risk assessment when entering certain ports in or transiting close to the far coastline in the eastern Mediterranean
Merchant vessels continue to regularly report observations of GNSS interference when in or near Port Said/Egypt, likewise when sailing in the Syrian channel and also west/northwest coast of the Lebanon. Merchant vessels are advised to pay special attention when operating in this area and report similar observation to NATO Shipping Centre.
The SECURITY and TERRORISM threat towards merchant vessels in open waters in the EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN is LOW