Indian Ocean HRA Overview
- No incidents reported in the High Risk Area during the reporting period.
The tactical situation across the Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA) remains the same in terms of the threat of piracy and maritime crime. The reporting period (26 July – 2 August) has no confirmed piracy incidents to report. Despite this, approaches in recent months by suspected pirate skiffs continue in areas such as the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, with suspicious approaches reporting to have sighted pirate paraphernalia. Incidents in the maritime domain involving onshore violence has not only been reported in the Southern Red Sea off the coast of Yemen but also off the coast of southern Somalia. This in turn illustrates that the region remains vulnerable to piracy incidents and violence on land spilling out into the maritime region due to the persistent instability in the Horn of Africa and Middle East. The current assessment is that piracy attacks will remain sporadic and at a low level and rebel/terrorist groups will continue to conduct attacks for the foreseeable future.
Adverse weather conditions continue to influence the Indian Ocean, piracy operations are therefore more likely to occur in more sheltered areas such as the Bab-el-Mandeb strait and Gulf of Aden where skiffs are able to operate with more ease. Reports have indicated that Somali pirates may use the monsoon as cover for attacks against merchant ships in areas such as the Gulf of Aden where weather conditions are not as severe.
Reported Incidents HRA
No incidents to report during the reporting period (UKMTO)
Hodeidah Offensive Update
The Saudi-led coalition appears to have resumed airstrikes on the rebel held port city of Hodeidah, civilians have reported ongoing hovering and strikes over the city and some central locations. Heavy ground clashes continue in southern areas of the Hodeidah governorate.
Houthi rebels offer to halt Red Sea attacks
The rebel group stated this week that they are willing to stop attacks in the maritime domain if the coalition halts its strikes against rebels. This statement has followed after attacks on two Saudi vessels by rebels last week. Attacks were conducted by rebels using explosive laden skiffs causing minor and no damage to the vessels targeted. These attacks prompted Saudi Arabia to announce that it would halt its oil traffic through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait to minimise the threat to their vessels. Saudi Arabia’s statement in response to the attacks was made to attract international support to the conflict. It can be said that the Houthis are likely to have made this offer in an attempt to halt additional international military support on the ground in the current conflict.
Al Shabaab continue to be increasingly active in Somalia, maintaining strongholds in southern and central Somalia. The terrorist group 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.
Until the deep rooted issue of piracy in Somalia are resolved, piracy will continue to be a threat. In recent times Somalia has suffered some of the worst famines in 40 years, this coupled with the struggling government and extreme militant violence has brought millions of 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 serving as an ongoing threat to shipping in the region.