Rea Sea / Gulf of Aden
In June 2017 the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which aims to protect shipping from terrorism and piracy, issued a statement saying it was stepping up its activities in the region, due to “recent attacks against merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Bab-el-Mandeb”.
It mentioned two attacks in particular, both thought to be linked to the Yemen conflict. The first was the assault against the LNG tanker GALICIA SPIRIT in October 2016 and the second the attack on the oil tanker MUSKIE in May 2017. Both attacks, whilst unsuccessful, involved the use of high speed boats and “significant amount of explosives”.
A maritime security notice issued by United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) around the same time said: “We assess that it is highly unlikely that international shipping is being directly targeted [by combatants in the Yemen conflict] but there remains a risk of misidentification and miscalculation.”
Incidents that have been reported since then include:
In April 2018 a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, claimed an oil tanker had come under attack by Houthi rebels, in international waters, west of Hodeidah.
In May 2018 there was an explosion on a vessel carrying wheat in the Hodeidah waiting area. Rebel sources said the ship had been struck by a missile; Saudi-led coalition forces said the explosion was from the inside to the outside.
In June 2018 a vessel that had been delivering food aid to the rebel held port of Hodeidah was reported by the World Food Programme to have come under fire from unidentified gunman in a skiff.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels warned on 9 January 2018, that they would block shipping traffic if Saudi-led coalition forces continued their advance on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
The warning, published by a Houthi controlled news agency, came from Saleh al-Samad, a senior Houthi leader.“If the aggressors keep pushing towards Hodeidah and if the political solution hits [a] wall, there are some strategic choices that will be taken […..] including blocking international navigation in the Red Sea,” he was quoted as saying.
The port of Hodeidah, which has been in Houthi hands throughout the conflict, has been a crucial entry point for fuel, food and humanitarian aid and supplies.
In June 2018, Yemeni forces – backed by UAE and Saudi Arabia – had advanced to within 10 km of the port. However the port has continued to operate. As of early July 2018, the UN is trying to broker a deal to prevent fighting at, and the closure of, the port of Hodeidah.
As well as the security risk at Hodeidah, there are commercial risks such as delay and disputes arising from problems associated with the vessel clearance procedures. Additionally, financial difficulties (for example, traders having to seek credit outside of Yemen) increase the importance of conducting commercial due diligence.
ASSESSMENT AND ANALYSIS
All ships sailing through the High Risk Area (HRA) – which includes parts of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – should register their intentions with the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA).
The US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) has set up a Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MSTC) in the Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea region. The purpose of the corridor is “to provide a recommended merchant traffic route around which Naval Forces can focus their presence and surveillance efforts. The CMF recommends “that all vessels use the MSTC to benefit from military presence and surveillance.”
Vessels should follow BMP5 and the BIMCO / ICS / INTERTANKO complementary guidance ‘Interim Guidance on Maritime Security in the Southern Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb (Published 25 January 2018).
Vessels trading to Hodeidah should conduct both additional security and commercial due diligence, including obtaining the very latest information and employing risk assessments, as well as keeping insurers advised and seeking their advice.
UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) clearance is required for vessels calling at Salif and Hodeidah.
Vessels calling at Gulf of Aden ports require Ministry of Transport and Coalition Forces clearance.
Application for permission may take up to two weeks before ships are cleared and granted permission for entry at Yemeni ports.
The situation is fluid and the threats to shipping can change rapidly. Ship operators should carry out detailed risk assessments for each voyage into the area using the latest threat information.
Reported by Gray Page