International Security Warning Issued for Ships in the Red Sea

tanker at sea
Ships transiting the Red Sea region are being warned to take extra steps due to heightened concerns (file photo)

Published Nov 17, 2023 3:35 PM by The Maritime Executive


An international coalition set up to maintain maritime security and freedom of navigation across the Middle East region released a warning on Thursday, November 16, for shipping operating in the Red Sea region. The warning comes after a series of provocations as well as threats from the Houthi rebels in Yemen to shipping in the region.

“We continue to be concerned with a heightened threat level in the Red Sea,” the International Maritime Security Construct writes in its message. “The approaches to the Bab al Mandeb continue to be an area of concern,” they write advising ships on procedures for transiting the Red Sea and Bab al Mandeb.

The strait between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and the area known as the Horn of Africa where Djibouti and Eritrea are located, is a vital shipping lane. Oil tankers departing the Middle East as well as numerous containerships sailing the routes between Asia and Europe pass through the area.  The strait is the link between the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean.

The IMSC does not point to any specific incidents in its advisory. However, it has been widely reported that the Houthis, the Iranian-backed militia that controls large sections of Yemen along the Red Sea issued a direct threat at the beginning of the week. Israeli shipping and vessels that they believed were linked to the U.S. and the Hamas war were viewed to be in the greatest danger.

Both the U.S. and UK have increased their naval presence in the region with the U.S. reporting several recent incidents. The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney, which was operating with the Gerald R. Ford Strike Group, was directed through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea in mid-October. The vessel reported on October 19 intercepting at least three missiles fired from Yemen. While at the maximum range of the weapons, the U.S. Pentagon said they believed they were being fired toward Israel. The same vessel took down an unspecified number of drones that had been launched from Yemen, with some later news reports saying the assault lasted for at least four hours, although the U.S. said it did not believe the Carney was targeted.

Shortly after the Houthi rebel group threatened to attack Israeli shipping in the Red Sea this week, the USS Thomas Hudner reported that it too had shot down a suspicious drone. The Pentagon confirmed the incident on Wednesday, November 15, saying the destroyer “engaged and shot down the drone to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel.”

Based on the heightened threat level, IMSC and the Coalition Task Force Sentinel from Bahrain issued recommended procedures for all vessels transiting the area.

They are saying that vessels, when possible, should make the transit at night to reduce the likelihood of visual identification by “malign actors.” They are also recommending that vessels communicate to either the UKMTO or U.S. Naval Forces Central Command their movements ahead of time or if there is there is reason for elevated concern.

“Should your vessel be threatened, don’t stop and be a hard target through your maneuver,” they write in the advisory signed by the commander of IMSC.