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CYPnaval Conference - October 2nd - Cyprus

October 2nd 2019

Yemen Missile Incident

October 7th 2016
On October 1st, the UAE-flagged HSV-2 vessel, Swift-1, was transiting from port of Aden through the Bab el Mandeb Strait when it was struck by at least one missile fired by al-Houthi elements emanating from Yemen, in position N13:06-043:08E at 0102 UTC.

The vessel was around 8nm off the coast of Mokha at the time of the attack, and video purporting to show the incident was widely circulated on social media by Houthi rebels. Reports from the Saudi-led coalition initially claimed that the ship was ferrying wounded passengers as part of a regular aid transit and that there were no injuries or casualties caused by the attack.

Details surrounding the incident remain unclear. The majority of news reports suggest that a Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship missile was responsible, known as a CSS-N-8 Saccade in the West. The missile system is one which Iran has in its arsenal and, as has been widely documented, Iran has supplied Houthi forces with arms during the conflict in Yemen. Other news reports, however, suggest the weapon may have been an anti-tank missile fired from a small boat

Rumours now suggest that many on board were killed or injured during the incident. The damaged ship has now been towed from the scene of the attack, but it is hard to imagine that the crew of 25 emerged unscathed.

UKMTO reported the attack as being directly related to the ongoing conflict in Yemen and, as such, sought to reassure the international shipping community using the narrow chokepoint.

CSOA Assessment: David Rider

Any attack on a ship in the BAM must be taken seriously, particularly one which may have used an anti-ship missile. If this is the case, then the missile must have been fired from a unit deployed on the Yemen coast. It is likely that Iranian “advisors” were involved in both the deployment and firing of the system, and that they tracked the target. However, given this incident occurred during the hours of darkness, the risks to commercial merchant ships using the BAM are all too clear.

While attempting to reassure the shipping community, the unfortunate fact is that there is very little coalition forces can do to prevent a Merchant ship from being targeted, particularly given the range of this weapon is around 100Km. While the al-Houthis have not made threats against shipping in the region, CSOA strongly recommends that members update their risk assessments and speak with insurers and P&I Clubs to assess any possible war risk liability. In practical terms, if you have vessels transiting the BAM, we would advise staying as close to the westerly limits of the TSS as possible, passing close to the Eritrean coast; be aware, however, that Eritrean patrols in fast boats may well approach and can often be mistaken for Somali pirates. The US Navy is sending three vessels to the BAM; the USS Ponce and two Ardleigh class frigates, which should offer an additional measure of security.