Sunday, September 1, 2013

Shipping Security in Suez Canal Tightened After Reported Terrorist Attack on Container Vessel

Cosco Ship Apparently Fired on - Three Arrested
Shipping News Feature

EGYPT – Despite stringent security enforced by the Egyptian army, there was a machine gun and rocket propelled grenade attack on a container vessel, the Cosco Asia, yesterday (31st August). The incident took place near el-Qantara, about 25 miles from the Mediterranean exit to the Suez Canal but there are no reports of any serious damage to the ship, nor any reported casualties. Today local authorities were keen to play down the incident saying the canal was well protected and that three terrorist suspects had been arrested and ‘were being dealt with’.

The reports of the attack were initially denied by the military who put out a statement saying that the problem was merely a ‘gas canister’ exploding on the vessel. The Cosco Asia is a Panamanian flagged vessel of around 110,000 dwt with a capacity of 10,062 TEU belonging to the China Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO Asia Maritime), a PRC state owned carrier. The region where the attack took place is particularly sensitive as it lies just a few kilometres south of the North Sinai region which has seen militants loyal to the deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, attack army personnel, whilst just to the east lies Israel.

Historically many threats have been made to the Canal which accounts for a permanently heavy military presence there, even in comparatively peaceful times, and historically of course it was famously the focal point of world affairs during the 1956 Suez crisis, following nationalisation by President Nasser.

This latest attack is being played down by the Egyptian army as a minor event which was designed by terrorists to draw military forces away from other areas, and to persuade the world at large that there was a serious risk to shipping, with obvious consequences for Egypt’s trade.

Photo: Container ship approaches the bridge near the scene of the reported attack. Courtesy of Structurae. Photographer: Frank Stephan