Indian Ocean HRA Overview
Continued reported incidents reflect that the HRA remains a threat in regards to piracy activity in the region. Recent efforts to improve the security environment will reduce the impact of Somali piracy, however, continuing deterioration of onshore conditions in Somalia and Yemen such as famine, terrorist groups, weak central government and poor governance of coastal areas continue to influence piracy in the region. Pirate financiers capitalise on the chaos offering opportunities to local people. Piracy groups onshore Somalia still bear the motivation to try and carry out attacks and still with capability to target merchant vessels. Increasingly, vessels in the HRA are subjected to incidents that appear to be co-ordinated small boat piracy approaches however they choose not to ultimately attack. These incidents are then difficult to classify as attempted piracy or simply as regional patterns of life in the area. However, as seen in recent months there have been numerous attacks and attempted boarding’s ranging from incidents in the Somali Basin, Gulf of Aden and the Southern Red Sea. The increased presence of naval patrols and armed security on board vessels act as a deterrent to the threat of piracy, however those vessels transiting in the area without the presence of armed security remain a significant risk.
Reported Incidents HRA
No incidents to report during the reporting period (UKMTO)
Smugglers sexually abuse migrants entering Yemen, says UN: Around 7,000 migrants enter Yemen every month with most seeking to reach Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. The UN have released a statement stating smugglers exploit the migrants by holding them in detention for lengthy periods during which they are forced to work without pay and under poor conditions with some being a risk of torture and sexual abuse. Most migrants from Africa travel overland to Djibouti and then use boats to cross the Gulf of Aden, where they enter southern Yemen. Once they arrive they seek to get across the border to Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Yemeni government employees of torturing, raping and executing migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa in a detention centre in Aden as well as forcing them out to sea. HRW have also accused the Houthi rebels of detaining migrants in poor conditions and failing to provide access to asylum and protection procedures in the port city of Hudaydah. (Middle East Monitor)
Houthi rebels fire missiles at Riyadh: On Wednesday Houthi rebels fired ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia’s capital which was intercepted in the skies over Riyadh. There are fears that Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the international nuclear accord with Iran could exacerbate the conflict in Yemen. (Reuters)
Ongoing Threat of Violence/Terrorism at Sea off the Coast of Yemen
- Yemen’s civil war has created an environment mirroring Somalia’s lawlessness. The ongoing conflict in Yemen demonstrates how poor security on land has led to violence spilling out into the maritime domain as Houthi rebels continue to control a large amount of Yemen’s red sea coastline.
- On the 3rd April 2018, Houthi rebels conducted a missile attack near Hudaydah against the Abqaiq, a Saudi tanker. There is no indication that the Houthi rebels intend to attack non-Saudi vessels, however Hudaydah port continues to be used as a launchpad for Houthi rebel attacks and arms smuggling. Attacks of this nature by the Houthi rebels in the maritime and land domain, are often conducted in response to the Saudi coalition actions in the Yemeni conflict.
- Ongoing reporting indicates that coalition forces are continuing to make advances towards Hudaydah which is currently under Houthi rebel control. As the advances towards Hudaydah continue this in turn increases the likelihood of Houthi rebels responding with further attacks against Saudi targets on land and sea, increasing the risk to shipping in the region. In the past Houthi rebels have repeatedly threatened to attack merchant vessels in the region should coalition forces attempt to re-take Hudaydah port.
- The continued proliferation of weapons in Yemen increases the possibility that rebel and other groups may seek to conduct an attack against shipping using WBIED’s.
Deputy PM Boards Warship to Meet EU Delegates over Piracy: Somalia’s deputy PM Mahdi Mohamed Guled boarded an Italian warship off Somalia’s coast where he held talks with the EU Naval Force under the name of Operation Atlanta. Discussions were held over EU-Somalia relations and the anti-piracy operation off Somalia’s coast. EU NAVFOR also known as Operation Atlanta is currently conducting counter-piracy military operations aimed at eradicating piracy and illegal fishing in Somalia’s waters. (All Africa)
Inadequate strategies to protect Somalians Undermine Efforts to Defeat al-Shabaab: The AMISOM mission in Somalia has started drawing down its 22,000 strong force. The inability to protect civilians in its area of operations represents a major lost opportunity to build public support for the Federal Government of Somalia and degrade the standing of al-Shabaab. This has resulted in distrust between AMISOM and the Somali population which undermines efforts to defeat al-Shabaab, support Somalia’s state institutions and build lasting peace. (ReliefWeb)
Charcoal export continues as Somali bans its trade: The export of charcoal from Somalia has been banned both by a 2012 UN Security Council Resolution and by the Somali Government due to its destructive effect on the environment and exacerbation of conflict and humanitarian crisis. Illegal trade in charcoal is recognised as a key contributor to insecurity in Somalia, providing funding for militias and terrorist groups. (All Africa)
Al Shabaab continue to be increasingly active in Somalia. The militant group has been battling the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in an effort to govern Somalia. Since 2013, al Shabaab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda attracting the United States to execute raids and airstrikes against the group. However increased US airstrikes have not enabled African Union Mission (AMISOM) and Somali security forces to gain enough momentum against the terrorist group as al Shabaab has yet to have suffered any great loss of territory or significant casualties from the airstrikes. Al Shabaab continues to maintain strongholds in southern and central Somalia and continue to carry out attacks against military and civilian targets. Somalia is a country whereby tribal loyalties are stronger than national ties which have hindered efforts to strengthen unity. Terrorist groups and clan divisions mean that the SFG and Somali forces lack legitimacy outside of Mogadishu. Further to this, al Shabaab further exemplifies the issue of famine, terrorism and corruption making the prospect of stability in Somalia in the near future bleak. Al Shabaab is likely to maintain its present operational tempo in 2018 which leaves huge challenges facing Mogadishu meaning international efforts to stabilise the country will continue for years to come.
In 2017 between March and May, five vessels were hijacked in Somali waters, whilst this was reported by many to be a resurgence of Somali piracy, it can be assessed as more likely to be a result of a permissive environment during the inter-monsoon period allowing skiffs and PAGS to operate with ease. Until the deep rooted issue of piracy in Somalia are resolved, piracy will continue to be a threat. 2017 saw the worst drought Somalia has seen in 40 years, this coupled with the struggling government and extreme militant violence has brought 6.7 million people into crisis. Pirate financiers capitalise on the chaos offering opportunities to local people. Somalia has the second-longest coastline in Africa which is largely unregulated. Pirate groups are known to operate in the coastal regions of Puntland namely Eyl and further south in Galmudug namely Hobyo. It is needless to say, as instability in Somalia continues, it will serve as a permissive environment for piracy operations with an ongoing threat to shipping in the region.