Ships in Red Sea using AIS to communicate with Houthis 

Some ships in the Red Sea have started using their Automatic Identification System (AIS) to communicate indirectly with the Houthis in Yemen. When the primary fear was boardings, ships began displaying messages saying “armed guard onboard.” Several tankers transiting the Red Sea last week were showing “Armed Guard Aboard” as their “destination”.

A vessel’s AIS has a restricted vocabulary. It is used to post information about the ship’s destination, direction, and speed. Sometimes it is used to warn of dangers such as “not under command”. A vessel can be classed as “awaiting orders”. has noted that a new message has appeared attempting to say that “we are not involved in your fight”.

Oil products tanker Kriti State (IMO 9324289), sailing from Novorossiysk, Russia, was the first vessel detected using a message to say it was not associated with Israel. posted an image to X/Twitter showing the Greek owned-and-managed tanker displaying the message “VSL No Cntact Israel.” Just an hour later posted another image on X/Twitter, showing a similar message from containership Xin He Lu 1 (IMO 9139907). At last check, the 46,350 dwt vessel still had that message on its AIS display. The 46,350 dwt/3429 TEU containership, owned and managed out of China, was also outbound from Novorossiysk, Russia, but a decade ago appears to have operated under charter to the Israeli shipping company Zim. reported that it also spotted a third vessel displaying the same message late last week. It was not clear if the message was reaching the intended target.

2006-built, Liberia-flagged, 43,797 gt Kriti State is owned by Argo Shipbuilding SA care of manager Avin International Ltd of Athens, Greece. It is entered with NorthStandard on behalf of Argo Shipholding SA. 1997-built, Panama-flagged, 41,507 gt Xi He Lu 1 is owned and managed by Haijiangwanyang Shipping Lines of Qingdao, Shandong, China. ISM manager is Safe Ships Ltd of Qingdao, Shandong, China. It is entered with Skuld (Skuld Hong Kong) on behalf of Xinhelu (HK) Shipping Lines Co Ltd.