CMF Update Maritime Security Recommendations for Indian Ocean HRA
18 Jul 2017
The increase in suspicious approaches and piracy attacks in 2017, along with the ongoing civil war in Yemen, have led to a change in recommendation by the CMF for vessels transiting the Bab El Mandeb Strait. Vessels are now recommended to transit the area during the hours of darkness. This applies to vessels transiting from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and vice versa, between 44E in the Gulf of Aden and 13N in the Southern Red Sea. BMP4 anti-piracy measures should continue to be implemented to the fullest extent possible on all vessels transiting the area.
- Due to an increase in recent attacks, the CMF has updated their advice to vessels transiting the Bab El Mandeb Strait.
- Vessels are now recommended to transit the area during hours of darkness.
- BMP4 measures are still recommended to be followed to the maximum extent possible.
Maritime: The increase in suspicious approaches and piracy attacks in 2017, along with the ongoing civil war in Yemen, have led to a change in recommendation by the CMF for vessels transiting the Bab El Mandeb Strait. A number of attacks have been made on vessels during daylight hours in the last year. This includes the MT Muskie on the 31 May 2017, in which it was reported 3 RPGs were fired at the vessel leading to vessel damages. Although there have been no successful attacks on vessels this year, the spike in activity, combined with threat of Waterborne Improvised Devices (WBIED), indicates the threat towards merchant shipping remains considerable. The identity of most of the attackers remains unknown, however the use of small arms and rocket propelled grenades is still evident in some incidents. Vessels are now recommended to transit the area during the hours of darkness. This applies to vessels transiting from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and vice versa, between 44E in the Gulf of Aden and 13N in the Southern Red Sea. BMP4 anti-piracy measures should continue to be implemented to the fullest extent possible on all vessels transiting the area.
Yemen’s Civil War
The entirety of the Yemen’s coastline and territorial waters remain within the High Risk Area (HRA). The maritime area surrounding Yemen is highly militarised, and poses a high risk to commercial vessels operating in the area. In addition, there is an increasing fear that the conflict affecting mainland Yemen may begin to impact vessels in Yemeni waters. On 30 January 2017, a Saudi Naval boat was attacked off the coast of Al Hodeidah. It is thought that this attack comprised of suicide boats packed with explosives, conducted by Houthi fighters. It was reported these explosives detonated around 20 metres from the vessel. On 25 April 2017, the Saudi Royal Navy reported that it had destroyed a remote-controlled explosive boat advancing towards the Jizan region of Saudi Arabia. It is thought that the target was a Saudi Aramco pipeline. The result is that the conflict in Yemen is producing increasing maritime threats, including the potential for maritime terrorism. Saudi and UAE coalition vessels have been targeted multiple times, with land based missile systems targeting Saudi Arabian ships. In addition to this, there have been reports of naval mines being used by Houthi rebels. A Yemeni Coastguard vessel reportedly struck a naval mine near the port of Al Mokha in March 2017. The risk of such mines is highest on Yemen’s western coast, where the ports and land areas are controlled by Houthi rebels.
Gulf of Oman
The Navios Hios reported a suspicious approach in the Gulf of Oman on 7 May 2017. This was the first incident to be reported from this region of the HRA for some time and was unique in its location outside the official High Risk Area. On 1 June 2017, another vessel attack was reported 112nm east of Muscat in the Gulf of Oman. Initial reports indicate that three shots were fired towards the Navig8 Providence from the approaching skiff. The onboard security team returned fire, after which the skiff moved away. The vessel was reported as safe. On 11 July 2017, a cargo ship reported a suspicious approach by a yellow-hulled skiff approximately 21nm southwest of Bandar-e-Jask, Iran in the Gulf of Oman. The onboard security team fired warning shots at the skiff, which then moved away. This incident however is no longer being considered a piracy related incident.
Return of piracy?
The increase in recent piracy activities is a result of continued instability in Somalia and a growing complacency by shipping companies towards vessel security. In May 2017, a MIEVOM meeting in Dubai stated there are currently an estimated eight Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) operating in the region. Local Somali forces have been involved in releasing the vessels, demonstrating their growing capacity and ability to negotiate with PAGs, although it currently remains unconfirmed whether ransoms have been paid for crew or vessel release. Drought conditions in Somalia have further exacerbated conditions and provided further incentive for a return to piracy for monetary gain. The OS 35, attacked and boarded on 8 April 2017, was the first large bulk carrier to be boarded by Somali pirates in recent years. The recent attempted attacks on the Alheera and Costina, also in April, indicates a continued desire from Somali pirates to target larger vessels. Some reports have stated the cost of Somali piracy has increased in 2016 to $1.7 billion. Prior to this, the cost of Somali piracy had undergone a downward trend from $7 billion since 2010. International naval patrols, along with BMP4 anti-piracy measures, continues to be the most effective measures responsible for reducing incidents of vessel hijackings.
SECURITY ADVICEMaritime PiracyHigh
Vessels transiting the High Risk Area should maintain a heightened level of surveillance, particularly when passing through the Bab El Mandeb Strait. Houthi rebels have primarily targeted coalition warships, however there have been numerous reports of attacks and suspicious approaches on merchant vessels transiting the Bab El Mandeb Strait. Houthi naval mines have also been uncovered and diffused along the Yemeni coastline. It is advised all vessels transiting the HRA to proceed with extreme caution and adhere to the CMF recommendations of transiting the strait during the hours of darkness. Vessels should ensure all BMP4 measures are in place. Solace Global advise, and have implemented, 24-hour anti-piracy watches when transiting the strait.
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