31 January, 2017- An attack on a Saudi warship west of Hudaydah Port has left two crew members dead and three injured. Al Masira TV, a Houthi-controlled station, has broadcast what appears to be footage of the attack on Yemen’s western coast. Rebel sources said guided missiles were used in the attack; however, a statement by Saudi authorities says that three “suicide boats” approached the frigate. One of the boats reportedly collided with the rear of frigate, exploding and causing a fire.
The attacks come as coalition forces continue “Operation Golden Spear,” which began on 7 January. Operation Golden Spear sees coalition forces advancing northward along Yemen’s western coast to drive Houthi rebels out of Red Sea ports. The coalition warns that the Houthis may be using Hudaydah as a launch-pad for terrorist operations, potentially hampering international navigation and the flow of humanitarian aid into Yemen.
Saba news agency, partly taken over by the Houthis in 2015, cited a military source as saying, “The targeting of this warship comes within the framework of the legal right of Yemen to defend the homeland and its sovereignty.”
The attack comes ten days after a statement reportedly made by the Yemeni navy, coastal defense and coastguard, warning that the forces are prepared to respond to aggression should Saudi warships in international waters bomb civilian targets. The statement also warned that merchant vessels in international waters require Long Range Tracking and Identification (LRIT) for safe navigation. In October, the Houthis were accused of firing missiles at a US warship and a UAE chartered logistics ship.
In a separate event, al Masira reported that Houthi fighters launched a missile at a coalition military base on the island of Zuqar, between Yemen and Eritrea on the Red Sea. There is no information regarding damages or casualties, nor confirmation from the Saudi-led coalition. South of Hudaydah, fierce fighting is reported to be ongoing at the port city of Mokha.
MS Risk continues to advise extreme caution for vessels traveling through Bab Al Mandab, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In October, MS Risk warned that the battle in Yemen could change in trajectory, causing greater impact on the maritime navigation through the Bab al Mandab Strait. According to reports, Hudaydah port remains operational, however this is subject to change. The Saudi-led coalition has not yet given indication of its next steps. As they continue to push northward along Yemen’s coast, there is a likelihood of potential shore-to-ship or water-borne attacks, and retaliatory responses. This could disrupt of shipping routes, or cause damage to vessels.
Ship owners and masters are urged stay abreast of the conflict and to carry out risk assessments prior to entering Bab al Mandab or Yemen waters. Seek upto- the-moment, reliable information from local sources and remain vigilant. Crew members are urged to report unusual or potentially hostile activity to coalition forces via the following methods:
VHF: Channel 16
All vessels must adhere to UN and Coalition-led inspections.
For more information, please visit MS Risk’s website at www.msrisk.com