Yemen: Legal implications of the crisis

Port news

Published: 27 April 2015

The present situation in Yemen continues to give rise to serious security and safety challenges for shipping. Members planning Yemeni port calls or passing along the Bab el-Mandeb straits should carefully consider both practical and legal issues arising.

US Naval vessels are reported to have arrived near Yemen (Source: PBS)

The latest situation

At present fighting continues in a number of locations across Yemen and further air strikes by foreign planes have also been reported. There have also been reported movements of Saudi, Egyptian, United States and Iranian Naval forces, but as these are military operations, it is difficult to obtain clear and up to date information on how these may impact commercial shipping operations and navigation. On-location navigational awareness of these factors is therefore very important. Masters should be forewarned accordingly.

In the meantime certain flag states, including Singapore and Norway, have cautioned their vessels about Yemeni port calls and BIMCO has also issued an alert with respect to Yemeni ports and waters.

Overall the situation on the ground remains very volatile and unpredictable.

Planning for the long term

There is at this time no indication that the underlying issues, which gave rise to the conflict, are being resolved. It is therefore expected that the present situation will persist for the foreseeable future.

This impacts on shipping in a number of ways, particularly dry bulk cargo shipments of food to Yemen, as well as oil and gas exports from Yemen. It will also impact on vessels passing through the Bab el-Mandeb straits, which are one of the world's key shipping lanes.

It is therefore prudent for members to review their practical, contractual and insurance arrangements, to ensure these are appropriate for the present risk scenario and address any issues that members may be concerned about with respect to their crew / vessel safety and trading plans.

In this regard, solicitors Tatham Macinnes have produced a comprehensive overview of key legal and insurance issues that should form part of an overall risk assessment. This article is republished alongside Skuld's advisory with Tatham Macinnes' kind permission.

Key issues for consideration include:

  1. application and scope of war risk clauses
  2. port safety warranties
  3. refusal of orders to proceed to / near Yemen
  4. frustration of contract
  5. deviation
  6. impact on bills of lading
  7. obligations for the arrangement and cost of insurance

This is not an exhaustive list of issues, and in any event members should always seek to prioritise the safety of crews on board vessels. If members have any vessel in Yemen at this time or have a vessel that is intending to call at a Yemeni port, they are asked to make urgent contact with their Hull and War underwriters as well as with the Association, so that the situation can be assessed further.

For members with charters that include a liberty to call at Yemen, or where such charters are presently under negotiation, it will be prudent to carry out a full risk assessment before making any decision to proceed further.

It will also be necessary to carry out risk assessments, before and during any voyage that may see the vessel come in to, or pass close by, national Yemeni waters and the Bab el-Mandeb straits.

Further reading

The Association has previously published a number of updates on this developing situation.

For vessel specific enquiries, members are asked to contact their usual Skuld business unit.

The Association is grateful to Messrs. Tatham Macinnes for their contribution to this update.