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Indian Ocean Region Update

The Yemen conflict spillover 
August 31st 2017
The Yemen conflict spillover
A similar pattern to last month, as merchant shipping continues to experience suspicious approaches in the Southern Red Sea/Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM).

Sadly, agencies reporting on these incidents rarely specify the type of vessels used by the perpetrators, which means narrowing down their origins is down to guesswork. Somali and Yemeni vessels do tend to differ, so details such as vessel type are important tools which allow analysts to correctly identify where actors are likely to have come from and rate their threat accordingly.

It is highly likely that we will continue to experience spillover from the ongoing military action in Yemen. Things may even worsen as the factions which form the Al Houthi-Saleh alliance are now beginning to splinter. This could lead to further maritime terrorism; in the last few weeks, there have been several attempts by Houthi elements to attack vessels in Mokha port, using boody-trapped boats.

While full reports on these incidents remain few and far between due to the secretive nature of the conflict, the risk to merchant traffic remains all too clear.

August has seen four official reports of approaches in the area around the BAM, highlighting the need for merchant vessels to have up to date risk assessments and ensure that they stick to the latest transit guidance provided by UKMTO (found in the CSO Chatter section of the website).

While there have been no recent attacks on merchant ships in the region, the schism forming among Houthi rebels is something CSOs would be advised to keep an eye on and adjust threat levels accordingly.