Red Sea Attacks: Implications for Private Vessels and How to Stay Safe

Red Sea Attacks
May 15, 2024


In response to the ongoing attacks targeting merchant and commercial vessels, and the reemergence of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, Concentric’s team of global intelligence analysts continue to urge private yacht owners to exercise extreme caution and utilize our maritime security experts if transiting the region, or if you are planning additional travel in the area in the upcoming summer months.  

Attacks on Commercial Ships Highlights Concerns for Privately-Held Assets 

Last fall, Houthi militants and Somali pirates began launching attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea. Houthi militants captured Galaxy, a cargo vessel, holding its 25 crew members hostage. Initially, Houthis targeted vessels affiliated with Israel, but now attacks are less obvious, with the Houthis expanding their militant efforts towards U.S. and U.K. ships, and some are utilizing support from Somali pirates in the area. 

  • Yemen-based missile and drone attacks have targeted over 40 commercial vessels, prompting operators to pivot course around the Cape of Good Hope.  
  • In November 2023, Somali pirates resumed activity that coincided with Houthi attacks, likely emboldened by the Houthis ability to operate without penalty. The Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) reported 33 incidents of piracy reported within the last three months, surpassing the total of the previous six years. Security specialists allege Houthi militants are leveraging Somali pirates to assist their operations, enlisting them to capture dhows and disrupt sea travelers. 
  • Some analysts also speculate, should the Israeli-offensive persist and the Houthi objective of disrupting commercial traffic remain unfulfilled, operations target private vessels, with the Houthis enlisting support from Somali pirates.   

Despite ongoing attacks in the Red Sea, private yachts continue to traverse Red Sea waters, often dubbed the ultimate yachting destination by yacht enthusiasts. Central yachting hubs in Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are advancing upcoming projects such as NEOM’s Sindalah Island–a luxury island destination in the Red Sea. Although militants have not yet attacked private vessels, including yachts transiting the area, yacht owners should remain vigilant and keep a watchful eye on developments in the region, particularly as protections against attacks on private vessels are not yet established. 

  • On December 18, 2023, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III created Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international task force assigned to protect commercial vessels navigating in the Red Sea. However, such securities were not extended to private yachts. 
  • The Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHoA) and the World Sailing International Regulations Commission also shared conventional guidance for private yachts to avoid high-risk areas, however, it does not address the current emergence of land-based attacks. 
  • International naval forces previously patrolling the Gulf of Aden have redirected their efforts north into the Red Sea, prompting concern about the void left behind, which can be exploited by Somali pirates and Houthi militants. 

How Concentric Can Help

Militants may be emboldened by conflict and expand efforts to target private vessels that draw attention. Concentric’s team of security and intelligence analysts, to include former U.S. Navy and U.K. Special Forces officers can help to ensure you have the support you need for any upcoming travel and to protect your most valuable assets. Establishing comprehensive maritime security measures before, during, and after transit is imperative in ensuring a successful voyage.

  • Physical Security. Our maritime security specialists are certified to conduct vessel, port, and marine risk assessments, as well as develop comprehensive vessel security plans that exceed the requirements of the ISPS Code. For transits through High Risk Areas, we can support the hardening of the vessel and prepare the crew with threat briefings and counter-piracy training. We can also provide armed security teams and shoreside counter-surveillance.
  • Intelligence. Our team of analysts can provide you with voyage risk assessments and monitoring for any upcoming travel. We also deliver analysis and trends reports to highlight any changes in the maritime industry and ongoing trends. 
  • Medical Security. Our team performs medical gap analysis and risk planning for voyagers to address potential healthcare challenges. Our capabilities include telemedicine, medical onboard monitoring systems, and custom medical equipment. Clients are given protocols for medical referrals and hospital admissions to ensure prompt healthcare access. Additionally, we service air medical response and evacuations globally for immediate action. 
  • Cyber Security. Concentric conducts thorough risk assessments and implements remediation plans for critical vessel systems, including establishing secure networks and device-level security for both guests and crew. We design, validate, and implement robust cyber security frameworks to safeguard clients from potential threats. We also conduct continuous network monitoring for operational vessels, thereby minimizing risk of cyber disruptions or attacks.  

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