The shifting maritime threat off East Africa: Yemen


On 23 May US-based NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy released their annual report on the state of global maritime piracy in 2017. The report detailed a significant increase in piracy incidents from 2016 to 2017 in the East African High Risk Area (HRA) — findings corroborated by NYA’s MarTrackTM data. However, NYA24 has identified new piracy trends throughout 2018, revealing a transforming threat landscape for vessels transiting the region.


According to MarTrack data for the period January to May 2018, there has been a 66% decrease in the number of maritime security incidents off East Africa compared to the same reporting period in 2017. This is mainly due to conflict developments in Yemen, off which the majority of East African HRA piracy incidents are concentrated. Furthermore, an analysis of the piracy threat in Yemen’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) indicates a shift in the frequency and location of incidents from 2017 to 2018.

Piracy off Yemen from 1 January 2018 to 31 May 2018 is 69% lower than in the same period in 2017. This significant decrease coincides with a shift in the concentration of piracy incidents from Yemen’s southern coast to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and southern Red Sea region. For the period January to May 2018, 46% of the piracy incidents recorded in the East African HRA in 2018 occurred along Yemen’s west coast. In the same reporting period in 2017, only 20% of incidents took place on the western coast.


It is highly likely that the shifts in territorial control within Yemen are among the principal factors behind the decreased piracy rate and movement of incidents witnessed in 2018. Conflict between Houthi rebel forces and the Saudi-led coalition affect maritime activity in the region, resulting in attacks along the coast. Since the beginning of 2018 Saudi-led forces have made significant progress in confining Houthi rebels to the west coast whilst consolidating power along the southern coast. The changing power dynamics on the ground are likely to have led to a decrease in maritime security incidents off the country’s southern coast.

At the time of publication, Saudi forces are leading an offensive to recapture Al-Hudaydah, a strategic Houthi-held port city on Yemen’s west coast. The frequency of the airstrikes in the area has increased over the past two weeks (16 – 31 May), revealing the forces’ determination to claim a key victory and regain control of the strategic coastal city. Military escalation by the coalition indicates a rejection of the UN proposed peace talks and further restricts Houthi rebels from procuring armaments or recruits to bolster their stretched forces.

The conflict in Yemen continues to pose a security threat to vessels transiting the region as Houthi rebels have exhibited the capability to perpetrate attacks via missile and marine-borne improvised explosive device (MBIED). However, as Saud-led coalition forces continue to strengthen their position in Yemen throughout 2018 it is likely that maritime security incidents related to the conflict will remain infrequent and sporadic along Yemen’s southern coast.


Despite the recent decrease in incidents it is recommended vessels transiting the area continue to follow BMP4 recommendations – as threat actors are certain to remain in the region in at least the medium term. NYA24 is well positioned to provide an additional layer of security to any maritime operation through its dedicated team of analysts and our personalised Piracy Incident Alert services. Our trusted network of information sources and 24 /7/ 365 piracy monitoring ensure that vessels transiting the HRA will be made aware of recent incidents and be able to take preventative measures.

To find out more about how we can support your maritime operations, call us on +44 207 291 7700 or email us at [email protected]



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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from NYA authored by Alison Burrell. Read the original post at: