The purpose of this report is to provide an assessment of the potential threat to superyachts and other vessels from piracy and maritime crime near Djibouti.
Between 01 January and 18 October 2016, there was one incident recorded by the Securewest International Global Response Centre (GRC) in proximity of Djibouti, but it did not involve a yacht.
On 06 August 2016 a container ship was approached roughly 60nm NE of Djibouti. The vessel observed five fast boats originating from Yemen on a westerly course. The first of the boats attempted to pass ahead of the vessel but slowed and crossed astern, as did the remaining four vessels. Armed Security Team observed ladders in two of the boats, no further information was released. Given the limited information, this event might be pattern-of-life, due to fishing activities in the area.
Piracy is still a concern, but was particularly so between 2008-2013. Hundreds of incidents took place in the High Risk Area (HRA) during that time frame, including the hijackings of yachts, but the numbers have since decreased drastically. This is partly attributed to compliance with the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP-4), naval forces patrolling the area and the deployment of Privately Contracted Armed Security Guards (PCASP).
However, Somali piracy is not eradicated and could quickly revive. Although there have been no recent hijackings, as of 14 October 2016 there are still 36 people from two different vessels being held hostage by Somali pirates; one vessel was taken in March 2015 and the other in March of 2012.
Despite the decline of occurrences in the HRA and the reduction recorded in December 2015 (please see map the below), the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) HRA still exists; Djibouti and the entire Gulf of Aden are part of it.
The revised limits are:
In the Red Sea: Latitude 15° N
In the Gulf of Oman: Latitude 22° N
Eastern limit: Longitude 65° E
Southern limit: Latitude 5° S
Pirates operating in the HRA have been observed targeting specific vessel vulnerabilities such as low freeboard, slow speed, unsecured access points, and inadequate/relaxed adherence to the BMP-4. As feasible, measures to reduce or offset these vulnerabilities should be implemented, consistent with navigational requirements and good seamanship.
In the event of an attack in the HRA, UKMTO should be the first point of contact, and the vessel should immediately call +971 505 523 215. Furthermore, while
transiting the UKMTO Voluntary Reporting Scheme, regular reports can also be submitted.
Suspicious Vessel Assessment Criteria
Based on Combined Maritime Force/Combined Task Force 151 Piracy 'Traffic Lights'. The following is provided for your use in assessing the potential threat from nearby small craft.
1-3 small craft in the vicinity, manoeuvring in any pattern (including approaching vessel)
1-3 people onboard (POB) each small craft
While small arms such as AK-47s or rifles may be visible, weapons are not being held by POB or pointed at the vessel
One or multiple small craft in the vicinity, manoeuvring in any pattern but appearing coordinated when approaching vessel; and/or small craft maintaining a trail on the vessel despite evasive manoeuvring.
Between 4-8 POB each small craft
Small arms may be visible and/or carried by persons on board, but not pointed at the vessel. Weapons may be mounted on the boat.
Items visible such as ladders, grappling hooks, etc.
Piracy Attempt Probable:
One or multiple small craft in the vicinity, manoeuvring to close with the targeted vessel (including altering course in response to evasive manoeuvring).
Greater than 8 POB in each small craft
POB armed; weapons pointed at the vessel; may include automatic weapons such as AK-47s; and/or rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), etc.
In addition to piracy/maritime crime, there are two further concerns in the region:
(1) proximity to Yemen in regards the civil war and recent attacks on Saudi-coalition forces and
(2) the migrant and refugee maritime routes.
The recent attacks by Houthi rebels in the Bab al Mandeb (BAM) specifically targeted Saudi-coalition forces and thus far not other vessels transiting the area. The BAM is one of seven chokepoints in the world; there is a vested interest by the international community to keep it open and safe because it is vital to the global economy.
A positive development is that despite the tensions in the region, a ceasefire was negotiated to begin on 19 October at 11:59 pm for 72 hours. Perhaps this will contibute to renewed peace talks between the fighting parties in Yemen and possibly to more stability in the region.
As per the security advisory from October 2016, while transiting the area:
Remain vigilant while transiting the area
Remain as far west and south of Yemen as possible
Use western Traffic Separation Scheme
Maintaining best speed
Transit BAM during daylight hours
In regard to the flow of migrants and refugees, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 92,466 people (91,592 in 2014) crossed to Yemen in 2015 via the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea. Conversely during the same time period, 72,308 people (no data for 2014) arrived from Yemen to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan.
Based on the difficult situations in this region, including continuous fighting, airstrikes and dire humanitarian situations, we can expect the numbers of people crossing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in either direction to contine. Furthermore the port of Djibouti serves as a major humanitarian hub for the region.
*Image credit: Google Maps