Posted on February 7, 2024
A group of prominent shipping associations have released revised security guidance for navigating the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in response to a series of attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis against international shipping from Yemen.
The new guidance was issued by BIMCO, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).
The Houthis claim to target ships with affiliations to Israel, the US, and the UK. However, the accuracy of their information and the validity of their claims regarding the affiliations of attacked vessels have been called into question.
Therefore, all ships transiting this area are advised to remain vigilant due to the potential for collateral damage from unintended strikes. The main threats to vessels include anti-ship missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, water-borne improvised explosive devices (WBIED), and drones, especially when transiting near the Yemeni Red Sea coast.
“Maintaining lookouts during the entire passage, regardless of timing, is necessary,” the guidance states.
The updated guidance highlights the need for a comprehensive ship and voyage-specific threat and risk assessment, taking into account any additional advice from the ship’s flag state before passing through the area.
Ship operators calling at Israeli ports should limit information access due to potential use by Houthi forces. Vessels acquired from Israeli-associated companies should update systems to reflect current information.
Both AIS-on and off ships have been attacked, and while limiting AIS data or switching it off could make a ship harder to locate, it is unlikely to prevent an attack. The guidance advises ship owners and operators to regularly evaluate risks to their ships and plan routes accordingly, considering the consequences of turning off sensors such as AIS, LRIT, and radars.
The guidance also advises against following Houthi instructions to divert to Houthi-controlled ports and provides direction regarding suitable waiting areas if a decision is made to postpone transit through the Southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The guidance recommends that owners and operators consider vessel hardening measures, including the use of BMP5, but cautions on the use of armed guards. “Caution should be taken when managing their employment and rules of engagement should consider the risk of escalation,” the guidance states.