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Yemen: No Port In a Decisive Storm

This morning it was widely reported that vessels were being turned away from Yemen’s Red Sea ports, resulting in a number of P&I clubs, including and , advising their members of the situation.

The news of these events didn’t come as a surprise here in the Dryad operations room, as it was something we had judged would occur since the outset of Op ‘Decisive Storm’ and had highlighted the situation in advisories to our clients in late March and, more recently, yesterday.

We have been looking in detail at the security risk in Yemen on behalf of our clients, taking the time and effort to fuse information from a variety of sources; technological, seaborne and people on the ground, and then analysing it through the filter of our collective maritime experience before delivering a valid and actionable intelligence assessment of the situation and risk to CSOs, ships and crews.

It became clear that, whilst the media and industry focus was centred on Aden, including the Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) and the ongoing battle between Houthi and the forces loyal to Hadi in the area, the wider coalition naval forces were positioning themselves to ramp up the embargo on the resupply of the Houthi through the Red Sea ports.

In Aden, Dryad’s source reports and operational analysis indicated that vessels and the port itself were at risk, with the refinery and port closed. Sources on the ground confirmed our assessment that no one would be working at the port. Further evidence showed that fuel shortages existed throughout the city whilst water and electricity supplies were intermittent. Public transport had come to a halt with the only vehicle traffic within the city restricted to ambulances and vehicles transporting rival militias. As a result, the local population is suffering food shortages and a major humanitarian crisis is developing. The legality of this embargo is something for others more qualified to discuss, as are the commercial risks and impact on charter-party agreements. Dryad’s primary focus, as always, is on the wellbeing and safety of the crews and the ships whose risk we are charged with managing.

Our original advice, following the Saudi led coalition announcement of the blockade, was that “all  owners  and  operators  of vessels  scheduled  to  arrive  at  ports  in  Yemen  in  the  next  seven  days  should  look  to  implement  alternative arrangements.” As of yesterday, and the assessment that “a more aggressive naval blockade is likely in the future”, Dryad reiterated this advice, mindful of the knowledge of a developing situation that will probably continue to worsen before it stabilises. Despite this, we continue to hear about vessels with plans to head for Yemeni ports and private maritime security companies considering supporting such forays.

Here in the Dryad Ops Room, we will continue to monitor developments around the clock, supporting our clients with the latest analysis and advice on mitigating risk in what is an increasingly complex maritime environment.  With Decisive Storm naval forces mixing with an increasing number of other international navies involved in combat and evacuation ops respectively, all vessels would be well advised to give Yemen as wide a berth as possible. Not so easy in the Bab el Mandeb, but proper planning, good situational awareness and a pragmatic and compliant approach to naval forces in the waters around Yemen should mean that transits can continue unhindered. As for trading in Yemen, just remember the phrase, ‘No port in a decisive storm’!


Mike Edey, Head of Operations