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Superyacht caught in skirmish off Yemen coast

Published April 28, 2023last updated April 28, 2023

A ship that British authorities initially said was attacked in the Gulf of Aden turned out to be a superyacht. A maritime intelligence company said the ship's security guards mistook the Yemeni Coast Guard for pirates.

The Kalizma in 2015
The Kalizma was caught in a skirmish near Nishtun in YemenImage: Udo Bernhart/picture alliance

Security guards on a famous superyacht shot at Coast Guard boats in Yemen on Friday after reportedly mistaking them for pirates.

At least one Yemeni Coast Guard member was reportedly killed.

Maritime intelligence company Ambrey said that a contingent from the Yemeni Coast Guard approached the ship which hadn't responded to radio calls.

"An armed security team ... onboard the yacht then opened fire on the approaching Yemenis and attempted to escape perceived pirates," Ambrey said in a brief, citing the Yemeni Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard "returned fire and followed the yacht for approximately an hour until communications with the yacht could be established and the misunderstanding between the parties resolved."

 "Multiple reports have confirmed the death of one Yemeni personnel member," the company said. At least one other Coast Guard member was also reportedly wounded.

'Attack' reclassified as 'incident'

Earlier on Friday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations had issued an alert that three boats, each with three or four people on board, had shot at a vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The body, which operates under the British Royal Navy to protect global shipping routes, later downgraded the shooting from an "attack" to an "incident" and said it was "confirmed by authorities as [a] government agency event."

British authorities did not mention that the ship, the Kalizma, is a 117-year-old luxury superyacht that has had several famous owners including Hollywood actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

The Kalizma in 1968
The Kalizma is a private vessel built in 1906 that has a storied history under many famous ownersImage: ZUMA Press/IMAGO

Ships threatened in Gulf of Aden

The incident occurred near the Yemeni town of Nishtun, which is controlled by Yemen's internationally-recognized government

It lies at the eastern extreme of the Gulf of Aden — a crucial global trade route that connects Europe with Africa, the Middle East and Asia via the Suez Canal.

Ships have been attacked in the Gulf of Aden in recent years due to the war in Yemen. Prior to that, attacks by Somali pirates were also more frequent.

In December 2020, an attack on a cargo ship near Nishtun made international headlines. 

zc/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)