Red Sea cruisers return after piracy crackdown
Cruisers are returning to the southern Red Sea after years of avoiding the region due to the threat of piracy.
A spokesman for the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), a multinational naval force set up in 2009 in response to piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, told YM there had been a steady increase in maritime traffic and yachts travelling through the Bab el-mandeb Strait.
CTF 151 usually focuses on commercial shipping but now wants to engage with cruisers to promote best practice, reassure them about security in the region, and gain feedback and observations on the effectiveness of CTF 151 activities.
Commander Tasuku Kawanami from CTF 151 said that although piracy has been suppressed in the region (there have been no incidents in 2018), partly due to the constant presence of warships, the ‘drivers of piracy’ still exist.
He said that yachts are not required to register with the Royal Navy’s United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information, or the European Union Naval Force’s Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), but strongly recommended cruisers do so. He also stressed the need to use AIS in the southern Red Sea.
‘Tracking vessels by AIS and through the UKMTO allows us to respond quickly if there is a maritime security incident as we know where to start looking. It also allows us to gauge which routes are preferred by the various ships and yachts that come through and to build up a comprehensive picture of patterns of life by sailors in the area,’ he said.
Cmdr Kawanami advised cruisers to follow the recommended Best Management Practices document from the military and shipping industry, which gives guidance on sailing the southern Red Sea.
Former Royal Navy counterpiracy commander Gerry Northwood is a director of Maritime Asset Security and Training. He urged those thinking of sailing in the southern Red Sea to take adequate precautions.
‘Incidents of attacks have gone right down in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean but I would say that anyone who thinks the situation is OK is not reading the situation in Yemen. You have a very serious conflict there which has spread into maritime and it would not take too much for someone to get caught in the crossfire. My advice is if you want to take a liveaboard yacht to that area, find another way of getting to the Seychelles or take an armed security team.’
He also highlighted the threat of ‘maritime mugging’, whereby a boat is invaded by armed intruders to steal valuables. ‘This low-level stuff is difficult to counter if you are a yachtsman as there is no law and order. The police don’t do anything and the criminals know it,’ he said.
As well as feedback from sailors about CTF 151’s effectiveness in the southern Red Sea, the multinational naval force would also like so-called Pattern of Life reports detailing what skippers have seen on their journeys and their general impressions of sailing in the area. These should be sent to email@example.com.
An information pack designed for cruisers crossing the southern Red Sea is being developed and will be available from MSCHOA.
The presence of naval warships and coordinated security has reduced piracy in the Red Sea region in recent years
Attacks tend to happen in the Gulf of Aden, where there is a large volume of shipping