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The Houthis continue to target Israeli, American, and British-linked shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. So far in February, four vessels have been targeted by the Houthis.

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A Myanmar Navy PGM-421-class coastal patrol vessel (pennant number 423) was damaged by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched by the anti-government rebels, the People's Defense Force (PDF), in the mouth of the Dawei River, Myanmar. The UAV reportedly damaged the vessel and injured five naval personnel aboard. The vessel returned fire with heavy machine guns; rebel casualties were not reported.

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Threats in the region have grown significantly, they are complex, and they are now over a wider area of operations.

The situation poses a significant risk to life and the safety of vessels in the area.

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Postponement of the upcoming General Elections that had been planned for 25 February 2024 has led to protests and disruption. Opposition leaders called the action an ‘institutional coup.’ Several opposition leaders were detained.

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Ukrainian forces conducted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack on the port of Ust-Luga, Russia. The attack resulted in a fire at the Novatek gas terminal. Ambrey observed video footage that showed a large fire at the gas and oil terminal. Residents of nearby towns reported on social media hearing two explosions and eyewitnesses reported the "sounds of flying drones" at 00:20 UTC - 22/01/24, indicating that two long-range Ukrainian UAVs reached the Russian port.

Taiwan Strait - Election Insight

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) are on course to go through a period of heightened political and military tension from the elections until the inauguration of the Taiwan President. The Republic of China has its presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 13 January 2024. The current President, Tsai Ing-wen, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has already served a maximum of two consecutive terms. Polling suggests that Lai Ching-te, Tsai’s successor in the DPP, will likely win the election. A win for the DPP over the Kuomintang (KMT) will likely be seen as a setback for Beijing.

Indian Ocean Region Insecurity

The Houthis have broadened their target profile of 'Israel-affiliated' vessels. They have also mistakenly targeted vessels that were no longer associated with Israel. There has been an increased military presence in the Red Sea which has led to the interception of many missiles and UAVs, but the presence has been uneven, meaning ship hardening and protection measures remain important to mitigate the associated risks. In one of the more recent attacks, a speedboat approached at high speed and opened fire on a civilian ship. Armed guards returned fire and repelled this attack.

AMBREY - Somalia, Puntland Hijackings

In the space of one week, two Iranian dhows were hijacked within Somali territorial waters while conducting legal fishing activities. On the 29th of November 2023, a 21m-long Iran-flagged fishing vessel/dhow was boarded by 6-8 assailants armed with AK-47-style assault rifles and RPG-7s offshore Qandala, Puntland, Somalia. The week prior, another Iran-flagged fishing dhow, ALMERAJ-1, was hijacked by Somali clan militia offshore Eyl, Puntland, Somalia. Both vessels were boarded while fishing inside Somali territorial waters. Ambrey understands both incidents to be ongoing with the assailants remaining aboard the dhows and towing skiffs. The ALMERAJ-1 has returned to Somali territorial waters after sailing into the Indian Ocean 400M offshore, south of Socotra. This group threatened to attack other ships if they were not paid US $400,000.

Ambrey advises merchant shipping to remain vigilant whilst transiting offshore Puntland. It is advised to avoid transits through Puntland’s territorial waters. Port calls to the region’s port of Bossaso are assessed permissible at this time, but it is advised to embark private armed security teams; weapons must be bonded in territorial waters. Industry advice is to avoid transits through the Socotra Gap, but vessels with high freeboards, high speeds and best management practice measures in place do continue to routinely transit through the area without disruption. It is recommended to take intelligence advisory and routing advice in the area as the situation remains fluid, and the ultimate intention of the hijackers remains unclear.

AMBREY - Western Black Sea Storms

Ukrainian meteorologists have described the recent storms in the Black Sea as a “once-in-a-decade weather event.” Waves have been recorded up to 9.5m high and wind speeds have exceeded 30kts. At the outset of the renewed Russian invasion, Ukraine deployed hundreds of YaM-type anchor contact sea mines to protect its shores from a Russian amphibious attack.  Russian forces also mined the coastlines of occupied Crimea using the Soviet-era sea mines. Russian naval aviators have also been dropping sea mines, both contact and bottom sea mines, into the transit routes of the Ukrainian unilateral grain corridor. Ambrey is also aware of the significant weakening of Russian coastal defences around Sevastopol, and the Kerch area.

Ambrey Analytics assesses that the threat to merchant shipping in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov has heightened. This is the most significant storm since the beginning of the renewed invasion. Ambrey assesses it highly likely that YaM-type sea mines would have detached from their anchors during the adverse weather. The predominant Black Sea winter currents run from the northwest, south toward the Turkish coast, and then break east toward Georgia. The storm and the currents will likely result in sea mines drifting into Romanian and Bulgarian waters in the coming days. It is assessed likely that the Ukrainian armed forces will seek to test the weakened Russian coastal defences. This will likely take the form of Unmanned Surface Vessels. These could result in disruption to the sanctioned port of Sevastopol and may disrupt vessel traffic in the vicinity of Kerch.

AMBREY – West Africa Insight

Gulf of Guinea Insight

AMBREY – Black Sea Insight

Novorossiysk Insight