Yemen War Adds to Rising Fears for Ships in Horn of Africa

The crisis in Yemen is spilling over into both sides of the Bab Al Mandab strait
The crisis in Yemen is spilling over into both sides of the Bab Al Mandab strait as escalation in ship attacks and a spike in piracy now threaten all shipping that seeks to transit one of the busiest and most strategic maritime bottlenecks in the world.

BY JONATHAN SAUL | REUTERS

Yemen’s worsening conflict is contributing to a spike in piracy in the region, with Somali pirates taking advantage of a reduced international naval presence and more readily available weaponry to carry out attacks.

“The regional instability caused by Yemen is important,” Colonel Richard Cantrill, chief of staff with the European Union’s counter piracy mission EU NAVFOR, told Reuters last week.



Fighting between Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition has spilled over into the shipping lanes through which much of the world’s oil passes.

And attacks on merchant ships in recent weeks by Somali gangs around the Gulf of Aden, the first since 2012, have raised fears of a return to hijackings and crews being taken hostage for long periods.

This is partially driven by the risk of famine and drought in the region, navy officials said, adding that there have been around six incidents involving Somali pirates and international merchant ships in recent weeks.

These included the attempted hijacking in April of a Tuvalu-flagged cargo ship that was rescued by the Chinese navy after the crew sent a distress call.

Separately, Somali pirates held the Sri Lankan crew of a Comoros-flagged ship hostage before they were released.

PIRACY PEAKED

A study by the Oceans Beyond Piracy non-profit group last week showed the cost of piracy in East Africa reached $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.3 billion in 2015 but well below the $7 billion reached in 2010.

Piracy peaked in 2011 and then declined after ship owners improved security and international naval forces stepped up patrols. But naval resources have since tightened due to other crises, while shipping companies – struggling with one of the worst sector downturns – have tried to cut costs.

Gerry Northwood, of maritime security firm MAST and a former British Royal Navy captain with experience commanding warships in the region, said the area around the Horn of Africa and a section of water known as the Socotra Gap – between Somalia and the Yemeni island of Socotra – was a hub for local trading and fishing and the main route through which Somali mother vessel dhows moved between the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean.

EU NAVFOR’s Cantrill said, smaller vessels with slower speeds were more vulnerable in the Socotra Gap, which is outside of a sailing zone protected by international warships.

The spate of attacks by pirate gangs has also been linked to growing anger among Somalis over the failure by authorities to crack down on foreign fishing vessels threatening their livelihoods, as well as an influx of weapons.

“The price of weaponry has markedly reduced. So, if you are trying to get hold of a certain weapon, it might easier now and cheaper and that could have an impact on criminal actors in Somalia – some of whom might wish to return to piracy,” Cantrill said.

However, there was still a “real willingness between navies and nations to co-operate” despite tighter assets available, Cantrill said, adding that the coming weeks following the monsoon season would be crucial as attacking vessels becomes easier due to better weather conditions at sea.

“We have seen a spike in piracy activity, but I would not yet characterize it as a resurgence,” Cantrill said.


  • Balance

    What this site also not reporting, Eritreans fishing to provide for their families were a target by these animals not even a week ago. Why even bother to report on this news and hide the truth? People in Asab are crying but not even a single RIP from the people claiming to be defenders of that tiny land? How long should a denial political game succeed? Truly embarrassing.

    • Kaleab B

      TN, I think this lying Woyane needs a break. He might be allowed to express his BS opinion here but not spread false info. Therefore, I recommend that you relieve this lying miserable out of his misery for a few weeks.

  • Ethiopia is losing its sleep ever since the Saudi-led military Alliance spread its wings up to the Eritrean shores to safeguard the safety and security of the Red Sea. Knowing full its diminished status, the regime in Ethiopia won’t dare to challenge the alliance directly, particularly the UAE, for its military and diplomatic dealings with Eritrea. Instead, it wages a low level cheap propaganda campaign to blackmail the Emirates military.

    For instance, on October 2016, the Ethiopian regime, through its agent at the Sudan Tribune, concocted the outlandish story of UAE fighter jest killing Afar fishermen. Consequently though, the story fail to grab the attention of the mainstream media and rightly ignored. A year later, the regime used the “Eritrean” extremist website Awate.com to recycle and regurgitate that same sh!t with little modifications. Failure even to get picked by Google News, the regime employed its usual agent at Sudan Tribune to spread its propaganda against the Emirates, afresh.

    In both cases, it uses a certain RSADO, (a terrorist group according to the Global Terrorism Database), based and financed by Ethiopia, as its sole source. The problem is, this group has been long discredited as a credible source for its past lies, for example about the non-existing Egyptian, Iranian and Israeli military bases in Eritrea; the Iranian missiles systems in Assab; the defection of Eritrean pilots to Mekelle; Afar genocide; Afar famine; etc…

    The bottom line is, whatever Ethiopia is doing in the background to blackmail and intimidate UAE’s presence inside Eritrea, will definitely work against its own interest, sooner than later.

    https://twitter.com/Ternafi/status/862213673884020737

    • Regurgitating, recycling their own old, failed posts. An insult to readers’ intelligence. Their sunken level of desperation exposed.

      https://twitter.com/SebleEphrem/status/862265853324267521

    • One Observer

      Great examples. Simply explained, ‘desperate people do desperate things’ and we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of TPLF junta and their puppets at awate dot com.

    • Raee

      Thank you TN for standing for the truth, and exposing those ክሕስዉ ዝርህጹ idiots.

  • US shouldn’t put all its Horn of Africa anti-terror eggs in the Ethiopia basket. Geography requires normalization of US-Eritrea relations.

    https://twitter.com/CohenOnAfrica/status/861673563182551040

  • L.T

    Awate.com is Weyane website from start so what ‘s new here ?Who says they are Eritrean?if there is Money in hell they can work for the devils.

    • Mai Atal

      ” Who says they are Eritrean ? ” . That is a good question.

  • Red Sea Patrol

    If there was honest collaboration, Eritrean Navy or even Armed Eritrean Red Sea private security firms with dozens of new patrol boats could play a major role in escorting hundreds of ships and earn hard currency which we could re-invest in our fishery industry.

    Just wait… the opportunity will come knock on our door.

    • That’s precisely the Eritrean navy’s job and that’s what they are currently doing, in case you don’t know.