On 19th May 2022, at 07:46 GMT, Atalanta received an alert, through its Maritime Security Centre (MSCHOA), regarding an armed attack against the sailing trimaran LAKOTA, south-east of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah in south Red Sea close to the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Straight. The boat was reportedly sailing close to the Yemeni shore due to navigation hazard. Three boats, with five person on-board with civilian clothes, reportedly approached the Hong-Kong-flagged sailing boat, firing around 20 warning shots and displaying Rocket-propelled grenade launchers and assault rifles. One of the assailants managed to board the vessel.
Atalanta quickly shared the information regarding the incident, through its information platform Mercury, with the relevant maritime actors in the area, especially with its long-standing partner United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).
Using evasive measures, the sailing vessel managed to escape and the crew is safe on-board SV LAKOTA. Quickly after the initial report, and after assessing which unit was in the best possible position to move towards the sailing boat, Atalanta’s flagship, Italian Navy frigate BERGAMINI (F590), patrolling off Djibouti, was ordered to get closer to SV LAKOTA to define an independent assessment of the situation. Her organic helicopter was dispatched to locate the sailing boat and provide any first assistance needed by the crew.
ITS Bergamini approached SV Lakota in order to gather evidence and to assess the event. The crew of SV LAKOTA provided Atalanta’s boarding team a video of the attack. This video will be analysed by Atalanta and the conclusions will be shared with our partners involved in providing Maritime Security in the region.
Throughout the entire incident, Atalanta maintained a communication link with the ship, with a coordinated action of its MSCHOA and ITS BERGAMINI. A joint Industry Releasable Threat Bulletin (IRTB) will be shortly published by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and EU NAVFOR Somalia – Operation Atalanta.
The reaction to this incident highlights the utmost relevance of Atalanta’s information system as well as the efficiency of the procedures to exchange information with EUNAVFOR’s partners engaged into upholding Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
During its 14 years of existence, EUNAVFOR Somalia – Operation Atalanta and its partners in the area managed to build a widespread network and set up efficient procedures in order to ensure the safety of the Sea lines of communications to guarantee the safe flow of navigation notably against the risk of piracy and to fight against illegal trafficking.