Interim industry transit advice for Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
Industry associations BIMCO, ICS, CLIA, IMCA, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, IMCA and OCIMF have published Interim transit advice for ships navigating the Southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
This guidance follows from a series of attacks on international shipping by the Houthi forces and highlights the threat of navigating in the vicinity of the Yemeni Red Sea coastline.
Houthis claim that they are threatening vessels they believe to have direct affiliation or links with Israel, Israeli nationals or ships directly associated with the Saudi-led coalition involved in the Houthi conflict with the Yemeni government. However, information related to vessels involved in more recent attacks did not indicate any immediate affiliation with Israel, Israeli nationals, or links to the conflict.
The Houthi’s source of information and accuracy is unknown, ships should maintain a heightened awareness of potential collateral damage when transiting the region and disregard Houthi demands to divert course.
In the past Houthi forces have attacked merchant shipping using anti-ship missiles, waterborne improvised explosive devices (WBIED), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Furthermore, they have laid mines to protect port entries for ports under their control, and on rare occasions, such mines have become detached from their tether and have drifted into the traffic lanes.
The threat from airborne activities is probably greater during daylight hours when targets are more easily identified and attacked/boarded, but the challenge of visually detecting and classifying small contacts at night such as water-borne improvised explosive devices (WBIED) remains.
The industry recommendation to use the Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MSTC) remains unchanged in light of the recent attacks - GUIDANCE ON MARITIME SECURITY TRANSIT CORRIDOR – Combined Maritime Forces (CMF)
Further, ships operating in this region are recommended to exercise extreme caution, and comply with the following measures to ensure safe and secure passage of their vessels:
- Before entering the region, undertake a ship- and voyage-specific risk assessment. This assessment should consider factors such as safe speed, day/night transits, bridge manning levels, etc.;
- If armed guards are utilized for the voyage then caution should be taken when managing their employment and rules of engagement should consider the risk of escalation;
- Ships with AIS switched on and off have been attacked. Switching off AIS makes it marginally more difficult to track a ship but may also hinder the ability of the military to provide support or direct contact. IMO Circular A1106(29) para 22 outlines the use of AIS. It states that, “If the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety and security of his/her ship or where security incidents are imminent, the AIS may be switched off.” Limiting the information in AIS data fields or switching off AIS could make a ship harder to locate but it is unlikely to ultimately prevent an attack. Limiting AIS data to the mandatory fields and omitting the next port of call (NPOC) could be considered.
- Hardening measures described in the Best Management Practices (BMP5) can be applied in areas of the ship where insertion of armed men by helicopter may be likely. The use of citadels / safe areas has proven to be successful in preventing the hijackers from taking over the control of the ships;
- Consult the Maritime Global Security website, OCIMF hull vulnerability study, and the latest US Maritime Advisory for the region;
- Register the ship's transit on the MSCHOA website and report any suspicious activity or concerns to the UKMTO;
- Refer to the guidance provided by the ship's Flag State and ensure that ISPS security levels are duly followed;
- If under attack, please get in touch with US Naval Forces in Bahrain directly at +973 1785 3879