THE INTERNATIONAL Bargaining Forum has designated the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden a Warlike Operations Area following the deaths of three seafarers in the region earlier this month.

The IBF Warlike Operations Area Committee unanimously agreed to establish the warlike area after Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis) attacked the bulk carrier True Confidence with a missile on 6 March.

Designation of a Warlike Operations Area, which follows the expansion of a high-risk area in February, triggers an increased security level for seafarers on ships transiting the area.

The IBF brings together the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Joint Negotiating Group of maritime employers. The forum is calling for the diversion of vessels, avoiding the route through the newly established warlike area.

“Our first priority is the safety of seafarers,” the IBF said.

“Ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are Houthi missile targets, putting seafarers’ lives in grave danger.

“We strongly urge charterers, operators and shipowners to avoid passage through the area until there is no risk to the safety of seafarers from further attacks.”

Commercial shipping has been under fire in waters of Yemen since November 2023. Prior to the fatal attack on True Confidence, Ansar Allah sunk the bulk carrier Rubymar in the Red Sea.

Efforts to limit environmental damage from Rubymar and the abandoned True Confidence are on hold until attacks on ships ease, the United Nations’ maritime shipping regulatory agency said on Monday 18 March, according to Reuters.

On 19 March Ansar Allah claimed it targeted the LPG tanker Mado with missiles as it transited the Red Sea.

The IBF intends to ask all employers and union affiliates to lobby their respective governments to intervene as ships continue to transit the area, and to act in the safety of seafarers.

The Warlike Operations Area had previously been 12 nautical miles off the mainland Yemeni Coast.

The IBF’s decision on 18 March decision expands the area to cover the previously declared High Risk Area, which included the southern section of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, stretching across to the Eritrea coast.

The area encompasses the Bab El Mandeb Strait including the Maritime Security Transit Corridor in its entirety within the Gulf of Aden.