The maritime security situation in Yemeni waters remains volatile and the operating status of many ports is unclear. Press reporting indicates that vessels bound for Yemeni ports will require clearance and/or inspection prior to entering Yemeni territorial waters and ports. Vessels intending to call at Yemeni ports can expect delays and are strongly encouraged to engage with local shipping agents regarding port operations and entry requirements.
Open sources reporting indicates that regional military forces are conducting continued air and maritime operations in Yemen. Several countries are continuing to evacuate their citizens via Aden and Hodeida and reporting indicates possible separatists activities in southern Red Sea. Increased maritime traffic is expected as refugees attempt to cross the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. Additionally, press reports indicate that terrorists forces may have taken control of the eastern port city of Mukalla and attacked a military base. Although there is no specific reporting that indicates threats to merchant shipping by these forces, commercial vessels are highly encouraged to exercise increased vigilance while transiting the region, especially in the Bab el Mandeb and near Mukalla, and report any unusual activity.
Airstrike on Tanker Outside Benghazi, Lybia
Libyan news sources have reported that an airstrike was conducted against a tanker in vicinity of Benghazi on 13 January. The security situation inside Libyan waters is deteriorating, while the risk of miscalculation and accidental targeting of civilian vessels by armed elements is increasing. Vessels intending to call at Libyan ports are strongly advised to conduct a thorough risk assessment in coordination with flag and port state authorities and local shipping agents before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Attack on Egyptian Naval Vessel
Multiple press sources have reported that an Egyptian Navy patrol boat was attacked on 12 November 2014 by armed militants aboard four small vessels approximately 40 nm from Damietta port. While there is not an identified, imminent threat to merchant traffic in the area, vessels transiting through the area are encourage to exercise increased vigilance and maintain close communication with port and flag state authorities and, as applicable, local shipping agents in accordance with the ISPS code. Any suspicious activity observed may be reported to the NATO Shipping Centre at email@example.com or +44 1923956574
Press reports indicates that a fishing vessel in the vicinity of Libya was boarded by armed men. While the affiliation of these men is not confirmed, this incident highlights the continuing uncertain security situation in waters near Libya. Vessels intending to transit through this area are still encouraged to conduct thorough risk assessments in advance of their voyages and when travelling through them, to do so expeditiously and with increased vigilance.
While there have been no reported maritime security incidents in the vicinity of Libya and Egypt since the end of January, there remains an enduring maritime threat in the waters of both countries. Vessels intending to transit through this area are still encouraged to conduct thorough risk assessments in advance of their voyages and when travelling through them, to do so expeditiously and with increased vigilance. Vessels observing suspicious activity may report it to the NATO Shipping Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 1923956574.
News agencies are reporting that a tanker was diverted from Misrata to Tobruk due to intervention from the Libyan government. This incident follows reports that the Libyan Air Force has stated that vessels approaching Misrata will be subject to air strikes and underscores the uncertain security situation in Libyan waters. Vessels, and tankers in particular, intending to call at Libyan ports are strongly advised to conduct a thorough risk assessment in coordination with flag and port state authorities and local shipping agents before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Libyan Air Force Notice Regarding Port of Misrata
According to press reports, the Libyan Air Force has issued a notice that any vessels approaching the port of Misrata will be subject to airstrikes beginning 9 Jan. In light of the recent airstrike on a tanker in vicinity of Derna on 4 Jan, vessels that are transiting through the Mediterranean are advised to remain clear of Libyan waters. Vessels intending to call at Misrata are advised to contact port and flag state authorities and local shipping agents for further instruction.
NATO has historically maintained a presence in the Mediterranean and will continue to do so as we work with our partner nations to help ensure a prosperous maritime environment and foster strong relationships. In support of this mission, the permanently manned NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) is the primary point of contact for the exchange of merchant shipping information between NATO's military authorities and the international shipping community.
In light of the above, commercial shipping relies on the principle of freedom of movement on the high seas to conduct its day to day business. Maritime trade is a fundamental strategic interest to nations dependent on freedom of movement on the seas and their economic well-being. Military operations at sea will frequently involve, or have some impact, on merchant shipping and likewise, merchant shipping may affect military operations.
In order to both reduce conflict of interest between military and merchant shipping and to enhance safety and security at sea, NATO developed and implemented the concept of Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS). NCAGS is the provision of cooperation, guidance, advice and assistance to merchant shipping to enhance the safety and security of merchant ships in the vicinity of military activities like counter piracy or other military operations.
In conjunction with the above and as a supportive service of the NSC, NATO has conducted the counter-terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR continuously in the Mediterranean since 2001. The mandate of Operation Active Endeavour remains unchanged to conduct maritime operations in Mediterranean Sea to demonstrate NATO's resolve to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorism. Reducing the threat of terrorist attack requires constant vigilance on the part of the Alliance.
Additionally, and with support from the NSC, NATO conducts Operation OCEAN SHIELD, NATO’s counter piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa.