Our client, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, has significant assets and operational exposure in the region. The Houthis are reported to have threatened to make the UAE an “unsafe country” in retaliation for its involvement in the Yemen war, and 2022 has seen drone and missile attacks on targets across the Gulf, including in Abu Dhabi. In January 2022, three people were killed at an oil firm in the Emirati capital, and several other attacks were reported.
The lack of trustworthy media coverage fuels misinformation and uncertainty
Media coverage of these attacks was difficult to untangle, as biases and support for different regimes and rebels make some information unreliable. For example, Sidharth Kaushal, a research fellow for military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told CNBC, “As long as the UAE can continue to ensure that the damage inflicted is limited and, moreover, rapidly repair any damage done, it can probably sustain a degree of pressure from the Houthis without enduring long term costs its reputation as a safe country.”
However, other sources portrayed the attacks as much more worrying and serious for life in the UAE and KSA, with reports that a ballistic missile fired from Yemen into the UAE was intercepted, and Houthis confirming they fired missiles at Abu Dhabi and organized drone attacks on Dubai. Furthermore, the Houthis threatened to target the headquarters of international companies with operations in the UAE, causing considerable anxiety for businesses in the Emirates.
Attacks also targeted ships and ports, which were directly relevant to our client’s risk assessment. In January 2022, Houthis attacked a UAE ship in the Gulf, and drones struck three oil refueling vehicles. Previously, four commercial ships were targeted near Fujairah port, during which two KSA oil tankers sustained “significant damage”, along with a UAE vessel. The media reported fires and explosions at the port itself too, but UAE sources dismissed them as “baseless and unfounded”. Maritime firms, particularly those that transport oil, have raised concerns about security.
Our client was worried about regional security threats to ports, staff and vessels, including disruption to operations in UAE and KSA. Staff with responsibility for large numbers of people and operations in the region do not have time to filter through the noise, misinformation, and potentially biased reporting. The apparent escalation in regional tensions and threats, demonstrated by attacks on ships in January, led our client to realize that they did not have adequate depth of understanding about regional complexities, or the ability to filter misinformation or sensationalism (such as biased news reporting, specifically in reference to Yemen). Consequently, they required actionable expert analysis with clear executive briefings, scenario modelling, and clear recommendations from our analysts.
We advised the client of their specific threat exposure, specifically related to ports, vessels, and related infrastructure, allowing them to make strategic decisions about deployment and operational security. There was concern that future attacks would target these operations if the situation continued to escalate. Intelyse continues to monitor the region closely, and report key updates on evolving threats. We also advise on scenarios for escalation or de-escalation as required, ensuring that our client can operate and protect their staff and assets against the dynamic complexity they face.
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