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 report states that there has been three (3) attacks against ‘local coastal tankers’ with all attempts reportedly failing as the former pirate groups attempt to restore some form of projection capacity.
Intelligence Comment: 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. These events occur at a period when several rivalries are competing in the Bosaso region. This is particularly due to the rivalry between Al Shabbab and groups affiliated to the Islamic State, but also between Qatar/Turkey on the one hand and Saudi Arabia/Water on the other hand, which are multiplying naval settlements on the Somali coast. The Al Qaeda group, for its part, has called for the elimination of Westerners in the region accused of plundering Somalia’s resources. 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, angered local fishing communities.
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.