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Recent incidents in Aden have underlined the fragile security situation in the port city, following a series of recent attacks and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED). The most recent, against a UAE military kitchen, killed at least seven on Tuesday 13th. ISIS/Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, confirming their continued presence in the city.
Food and fuel shortages remain a huge issue, as both the Houthis and coalition accuse each other of slowing aid supplies to the country. While some ports have re-opened, there remains an urgent need to speed up relief efforts. Houthi rebels have continued their attempts to strike Saudi targets with ballistic missiles, with limited success. There have been no new reports of mining attempts in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, but there has been an increase in the number of suspicious approaches on merchant vessels in these waters, prompting UKMTO to issue a warning on Jan. 6th. Not entirely surprisingly the conflict has spilt into the maritime domain. The main protagonists have been the Houthi rebels and they have been remarkably successful at targeting warships and auxiliary vessels with missiles, anti-tank rockets and remotely controlled boats laden with
explosives. While it is possible that a commercial vessel could fall victim to poor targeting, the most worrying development is the possible deployment of sea mines by Houthi rebels in entrances to harbours. We believe these have been locally manufactured and the clear and present danger is that any
that are not identified and removed by the Saudi forces will in time break free from their moorings and drift. While there is little cause for concern right now, this is something we will be watching closely for in the coming months.
The terrorist threat, likely to be led by AQAP, has been demonstrated against LNGC Galicia Spirit in October 2016 and MT Muskie in May 2017. Both were attempted but failed attacks which occurred in the BAM and were against fuel laden vessels.
The intent of the attacks was to detonate a bomb either on or alongside the target vessel in order to cause a spectacular and/or considerable environmental damage which would detrimentally affect navigation through the strait. Official reports on the Galicia Spirit detail evidence of attempted boarding and substantial damage to the hull and superstructure of the vessel. The bomb detonated prematurely and was supported by RPG and small arms fire. Similarly, the second attempt on the MT Muskie failed. It is feasible that a similar attack will be attempted in the future.
Advice from the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), recommends that merchant traffic transiting the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea are advised to pass through the area between 44 00 East in the Gulf of Aden and 13 00 N in the Southern Red Sea during the hours of darkness and exit the Traffic Separation Scheme to the West of the Hanish Islands in daylight hours.
The frequency of these incidents, where vessels are approached and in some cases attacked by armed men in small boats, indicates that the threat assessment remains ‘Substantial’ – an attack is a strong possibility. The recent threat by Houtis to target oil tankers should not be ignored by CSOs and Masters.
MAST recommends BMP measures be enforced and watches strengthened during transits in the region.
UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM)
The UN’s Secretary-General has decided to institute a UNVIM for the facilitation of commercial imports to Yemen, at the request of the Government of the Republic of Yemen and in line with Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).
UNVIM is operational with immediate effect. Shipping companies or vessel owners shipping commercial goods or services to any port not under the direct control of the Government of Yemen (Salif, Mokha, Hudaydah and associated oil terminals) need to apply for permits upon departure of the port of origin of their cargo. For further details click here.
UN arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2216 of 2015 is in place.
The port of Aden is under the protection of the Republic of Yemen security forces.
Merchant vessels wishing to enter Yemeni ports must first apply for a permit through the Yemeni Ministry of Transportation; contact: [email protected] for more information.
Final clearance to enter Yemeni ports (with permits in place) is authenticated by the coalition guard ship.
Ash Shihr Oil Terminal: Fully operational.
Port of Nishtun: Fully operational.
Port of Hodeidah: Fully operational, but questions about ease of access remain.
Port of Al Mukalla: Fully operational.
Port of Saleef: Open to humanitarian aid.
Port of Mokha: Closed.
Port of Balhaf: Closed.
Ras Isa Marine Terminal (FSO): Closed.
Ras Isa Petroleum Products Reception Facility: Closed.