Indian Ocean HRA
The threat of piracy still exists in the waters of the Southern Red Sea/ Bab el Mandeb, Gulf of Aden including Yemen and the northern Somali coast, Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coastline. Although the opportunity for attacks has reduced, Somali pirates continue to possess the motivation and capability to carry out attacks.
There have been unconfirmed reports from the RMIFC (Regional Maritime Infusion Centre) that over the last three (3) months Pirate Groups have been operating in the territorial waters of Puntland between Bosaso and Aluula. The presence of PAG’s is confirmed with two (2) incidents reported to UKMTO during the period.
Reported incidents HRA 21st – 28th February
Two (2) piracy incidents during the reporting period:
Suspicious Approach -UKMTO-
Date: 24 Feb. 0715 UTC
Location: 121600N, 0440300E
Details: Underway tanker approached by two skiffs, around 42nm SE of Perim Island, BaM, Gulf of Aden. Skiffs closed to within 1 cable.
Suspicious Approach -UKMTO-
Date: 26 Feb. 0830 UTC
Location: 125600N, 0481700E
Details: Underway yacht was approached by one skiff approx. 109nm SW of Al Mukalla, Yemen, (IRTC) Gulf of Aden. Skiff, with ladder sighted, closed to within 1nm.
The political situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate with a breakdown in relations between the Federal Member States (FMS) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). The security situation across Somalia remains unstable and fragile, as demonstrated by the assassination of the P&O Port Construction Manager, Paul Formosa, in Bosaso on 4th February by Al Shabaab. Beyond the calls from terrorist groups and factions, the Puntland population is increasingly unhappy with the concessions offered to foreign economic interests: last December, the massive issuance of 31 tuna fishing licences to the China Overseas Fisheries Association (COFA), which is allowed to fish within the 24 nm limit.
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. 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.
Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times inside the High-Risk Area (HRA) and follow the guidance and protective measures, as set down in BMP5. In the past, it has been reported that Pirate Attack Groups (PAG) conducted ‘soft approaches’ on merchant ships transiting the HRA. Skiffs have been known to approach vessels in order to probe the reaction of the crew and any possible security teams on-board. If the pirate approach does not elicit a response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, using additional skiffs. The guidance in BMP5 remains relevant and merchant vessels transiting the High-Risk Area are encouraged to comply with its three fundamentals; register at MSCHOA, report to UKMTO and implement Self Protection Methods.
President Hadi reiterated on February 26. that Yemen can only achieve peace in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2216 from 2015, which demands that al Houthi forces withdraw from all areas seized during the conflict and disarm. The al Houthi movement rejected those terms in the most recent round of UN-led peace consultations in December 2018.
UN aid officials have for the first time in six months reached a vast store of desperately-needed food on the frontline in Yemen’s Hudaydah port. The Red Sea Mills facility holds enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, but the UN had warned the grain was at risk of rotting.
United States Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike targeting an al Shabaab training camp near Shebeeley village in Hiraan region in central Somalia on February 25. The airstrike killed 20 militants and destroyed one vehicle. AFRICOM stated that al Shabaab uses the camp to stage attacks on the nearby Hiraan region capital, Beledweyne.
Al Shabaab separately claimed that a February 23 U.S. airstrike near Qunyo Barrow village in Middle Jubba region in southern Somalia killed two civilians. AFRICOM previously stated that the air strike killed no civilians.
The scheduled withdrawal of 1,000 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers from Somalia may allow al Shabaab to recapture small towns near Somalia’s capital. Burundian AMISOM forces began a partial withdrawal from Somalia on February 21 as part of AMISOM’s accelerated drawdown of Burundi’s contingent, which includes withdrawing from several towns in central Somalia. Al Shabaab may increase attacks on the capital and nearby regions following the drawdown.