Gulf of Aden

The Gulf of Aden, formerly known as the Gulf of Berbera, is a gulf amidst Yemen to the north, the Arabian Sea and Guardafui Channel to the east, Somalia to the south, and Djibouti to the west. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, and in the southeast, it connects with the Indian Ocean through the Guardafui Channel.[1][2]

The waterway is part of the important Suez Canal shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean, with 21,000 ships crossing the gulf annually.[3]

Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden map
Map of the Gulf of Aden
LocationArabian Sea
Coordinates12°N 48°E / 12°N 48°ECoordinates: 12°N 48°E / 12°N 48°E
Average depth500 m (1,600 ft)
Max. depth2,700 m (8,900 ft)
Max. temperature28 °C (82 °F)
Min. temperature15 °C (59 °F)


In antiquity, the gulf was one of the most important parts of the Erythraean Sea of ancient Greek geography.

In Abu'l-Fida's, A Sketch of the Countries (Arabic: تقويم البلدان‎), the present-day Gulf of Aden was called the Gulf of Berbera, which shows how important Berbera was in both regional and international trade during the medieval period.[4]

The British initially recognized the sea as the Gulf of Berbera (Somali: Gacanka Berbera), after the principal port of its southern coast.[5][6]

Its present name (Arabic: خليج عدن‎, Ḫalīǧ ʻAdan) derives from the importance of the former British Crown Colony of Aden on its northern coast, now part of Yemen.

The gulf is also known to the Somalis as the Gacanka Cadmeed.



The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Gulf of Aden as follows:[7]

On the Northwest – The southern limit of the Red Sea [A line joining Husn Murad (12°40′N 43°30′E / 12.667°N 43.500°E) and Ras Siyyan (12°29′N 43°20′E / 12.483°N 43.333°E)].
On the Northwest – The eastern limit of the Gulf of Tadjoura (A line joining Obock and Lawyacado).
On the East – The meridian of Cape Guardafui (Ras Asir, 51°16'E).


The temperature of the Gulf of Aden varies between 15 °C (59 °F) and 28 °C (82 °F), depending on the season and the appearance of monsoons. The salinity of the gulf at 10 metres (33 ft) depth varies from 35.3 along the eastern Somali coast to as high as 37.3 ‰ in the gulf's center,[8] while the oxygen content in the Gulf of Aden at the same depth is typically between 4.0 and 5.0 mg/L.[8]


Dhow Gulf of Aden
A dhow in the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf of Aden is a vital waterway for shipping, especially for Persian Gulf oil, making it an integral waterway in the world economy.[9] Approximately 11% of the world's seaborne petroleum passes through the Gulf of Aden on its way to the Suez Canal or to regional refineries.[10] The main ports along the gulf are Aden, Balhaf, Bir Ali, Mukalla, and Shokra in Yemen; Djibouti City in Djibouti; Zeila, Berbera, Maydh, and Las Khorey in Somaliland; and Bosaso in Somalia.

In antiquity, the gulf was a thriving area of international trade between Ptolemaic Egypt and Rome in the west and Classical India, its Indonesian colonies, and Han China in the east. It was not limited to transshipment, as Yemeni and Somali incense, tortoiseshell, and other goods were in high demand in both directions. After Egyptian sailors discovered the monsoon winds and began to trade directly with India, caravan routes and their associated kingdoms began to collapse, leading to a rise in piracy in the area. The 1st-century Periplus of the Erythraean Sea documents one Egyptian captain's experiences during this era.

After the collapse of the Roman economy, direct trade ceased but the Awsani port Crater, located just south of the modern city of Aden, remained an important regional center. In late antiquity and the early medieval period, there were several invasions of Yemen from Ethiopia; after the rise of Islam, the gulf permitted repeated invasions of northwest Africa by Arab settlers.

In the late 2000s, the gulf evolved into a hub of pirate activity. By 2013, attacks in the waters had steadily declined due to active private security and international navy patrols.[11] India receives USD 50 billion in imports and sends USD 60 billion in exports through this area annually. Due to this, and for the sake of protecting the trade of other countries, India keeps a warship escort in this area.[12]


A geologically young body of water, the Gulf of Aden has a unique biodiversity that contains many varieties of fish, coral, seabirds and invertebrates. This rich ecological diversity has benefited from a relative lack of pollution during the history of human habitation around the gulf. However, environmental groups fear that the lack of a coordinated effort to control pollution may jeopardize the gulf's ecosphere.[13] Whales, dolphins, and dugongs[14] were once common[15] before being severely reduced by commercial hunts, including by mass illegal hunts by Soviet Union and Japan in 1960s to 70s.[16] Critically endangered Arabian humpback whales were once seen in large numbers,[17] but only a few large whales still appear in the gulf waters, including Bryde's whales,[18] blue whales,[19] and toothed whales inhabiting deep-seas such as sperm whales[20] and tropical bottlenose whales.[21]

See also


Space Station photograph of the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa


  1. ^ Schott, Friedrich, et al. "Summer monsoon response of the northern Somali Current, 1995." Geophysical Research Letters 24.21 (1997): 2565-2568.
  2. ^ Findlater, J. "Observational aspects of the low-level cross-equatorial jet stream of the western Indian Ocean." Monsoon Dynamics. Birkhäuser, Basel, 1978. 1251-1262.
  3. ^ "Pirates fire on US cruise ship in hijack attempt: Yahoo! News". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  4. ^ Identifiants et Référentiels Sudoc Pour L'Enseignement Supérieur et la Recherche - Abū al-Fidā (1273-1331) (in French)
  5. ^ Dumper, Stanley, Michael, Bruce E. (2007). Cities of The Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC CLIO, Google Books. p. 90. ISBN 9781576079195.
  6. ^ Houtsma, M. Th (1993). First encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936. Google Books. p. 364. ISBN 978-9004097964.
  7. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Hydrographic Survey Results". Report on Cruise No. 3 of R/V "Dr. Fridtjof Nansen." - Indian Ocean Fishery and Development Programme - Pelagic Fish Assessment Survey North Arabian Sea. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 1975. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  9. ^ "Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil". European Space Agency. 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  10. ^ "Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden" (PDF). International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF). 2003. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  11. ^ Arnsdorf, Isaac (22 July 2013). "West Africa Pirates Seen Threatening Oil and Shipping". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  12. ^ Gokhale, Nitin (2011). "India Takes Fight to Pirates". The Diplomat. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  13. ^ "Red Sea & Gulf of Aden". United Nations Environment Programme. 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-07-01. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  14. ^ Nasr D.. Dugongs in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Hoath R.. 2009. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. pp.112. The American University in Cairo Press. Retrieved on February 26. 2016
  16. ^ Jackson J.. 2006. Diving with Giants. p.59. New Holland Publishers Ltd. Retrieved on December 17. 2014
  17. ^ Yuri A. Mikhalev (1997). "Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae in the Arabian Sea" (PDF). Marine Ecology Progress Series. 149.
  18. ^ "PBS - The Voyage of the Odyssey - Track the Voyage - MALDIVES".
  19. ^ "Cetaceans in the Indian Ocean Sanctuary: A Review : A WDCS Science report" (PDF). Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Yemen".
  21. ^ Anderson, R. C.; Clark, R.; Madsen, P. T.; Johnson, C.; Kiszka, J.; Breysse, O. (2006). "Observations of Longman's Beaked Whale (Indopacetus pacificus) in the Western Indian Ocean". Aquatic Mammals. 32 (2): 223–231. doi:10.1578/AM.32.2.2006.223.

External links

Action of 11 November 2008

The Action of 11 November 2008 was a naval engagement fought off Somalia between pirates and British forces. Russia has stated that its forces fought off the pirates also, though Russia's involvement has been disputed by the Royal Navy. The incident took place 60 nautical miles (110 km) south of the Yemeni coast, in the Gulf of Aden, and the engagement is a part of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa. When the Royal Navy ship HMS Cumberland attempted to board a Somali pirate dhow with twelve pirates on board, the pirates initially resisted with assault rifle fire. After a brief shoot-out with the Royal Marines, two pirates were killed and the dhow was captured by Cumberland. The Times has described the incident as "the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory." The Independent has also stated that the confrontation "is believed to be the first time recently that British [naval] service personnel have been involved in a confrontation that resulted in deaths", and The Toronto Star has stated that the engagement is "the first time since the 1982 Falklands War that the Royal Navy had killed anyone on the high seas." Russia Today has reported that the incident was "the first time Russian forces have moved against Somali pirates."

Arabian Sea

The Arabian Sea is a region of the northern Indian Ocean bounded on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Gulf of Aden, Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Peninsula, on the southeast by the Laccadive Sea, on the southwest by the Somali Sea, and on the east by India. Its total area is 3,862,000 km2 (1,491,000 sq mi) and its maximum depth is 4,652 metres (15,262 ft). The Gulf of Aden in the west connects the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea through the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Oman is in the northwest, connecting it to the Persian Gulf.

The Arabian Sea has been crossed by many important marine trade routes since the third or second millennium BCE. Major seaports include Kandla Port, Okha Port, Mumbai Port, Nhava Sheva Port (Navi Mumbai), Mormugão Port (Goa), New Mangalore Port and Kochi Port in India, the Port of Karachi, Port Qasim, and the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, Chabahar Port in Iran and the Port of Salalah in Salalah, Oman. The largest islands in the Arabian Sea include Socotra (Yemen), Masirah Island (Oman), Lakshadweep (India) and Astola Island (Pakistan).


The Bab-el-Mandeb (Arabic: باب المندب, lit. "Gate of Tears") is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

Bari, Somalia

Bari (Somali: Bari, Arabic: باري‎) is an administrative region (gobol) in northeastern Somalia.

Federation of South Arabia

The Federation of South Arabia (Arabic: اتحاد الجنوب العربي‎ Ittiḥād al-Janūb al-‘Arabī) was an organization of states under British protection in what would become South Yemen. It was formed on 4 April 1962 from the 15 protected states of the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South. On 18 January 1963 it was merged with the Crown colony of Aden. In June 1964, the Upper Aulaqi Sultanate was added for a total of 17 states. A team was sent to the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. The Federation was abolished when it gained independence along with the Protectorate of South Arabia as the People's Republic of Southern Yemen on 30 November 1967.

Guardafui Channel

The Guardafui Channel is an oceanic strait off the tip of the Horn of Africa that lies between the Puntland region of Somalia and Socotra to the west of the Arabian Sea. It connects the Gulf of Aden to the north with the Somali sea to the south. Its namesake is Cape Guardafui, the very tip of the Horn of Africa. Notable places of interest include the Alula Lagoon.

Gulf of Tadjoura

The Gulf of Tadjoura (Arabic: خليج تدجورا‎), (Somali: Badda Tajuura) is a gulf or basin of the Indian Ocean in the Horn of Africa. It lies south of the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, or the entrance to the Red Sea, at 11.7°N 43.0°E / 11.7; 43.0. The gulf has many fishing grounds, extensive coral reefs, and abundant pearl oysters. Most of its coastline is the territory of Djibouti, except for a short stretch on the southern shore, which is part of the territory of Somalia.

The Gulf other marine habitats include sea grass beds, salt pans and mangroves.


Hadramaut, Hadhramaut, Hadramout, Hadramawt (Arabic: حَضْرَمَوْت‎, romanized: Ḥaḍramawt; Hadramautic: 𐩢𐩳𐩧𐩣𐩩) or Ḥaḍramūt (Arabic: حَضْرَمُوْت‎) is a region on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. The name is officially retained in the Hadhramaut Governorate of the Republic of Yemen. The people of Hadhramaut are called Hadhrami, and speak Hadhrami Arabic.

MV Delight

The MV Delight is a Hong Kong-flagged grain carrier. It was attacked and hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Yemen in the Horn of Africa by Somali pirates on 18 November 2008 at 2 p.m. The Delight, chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, was carrying a cargo of 36,000 tonnes of wheat, and was heading for Iran's Bandar Abbas port. The 25 crew members are from India (7), Pakistan (2), Philippines (7), Iran (7), Ghana (2). The ship was released on 10 January 2009.

MV Irene

The MV Irene is a ship captured by Somali pirates April 2009. The freighter is Greek-owned, and had at least 20 crew at the time of the hijacking.

It was released September 14, 2009, after a two million dollar ransom was paid to pirates based in Eyl.

MV Moscow University hijacking

On 5–6 May 2010 Somali pirates hijacked MV Moscow University, a Liberian-flagged Russian tanker, in the Gulf of Aden. Her crew was freed by the Russian Navy destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov the following day.

MV Powerful

The MV Powerful is a Danish-flagged cargo ship owned by Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd. of Greece. It was attacked with the intention of hijack by Somali pirates using assault rifles on November 11, 2008 in the Arabian Sea's Gulf of Aden in the Horn of Africa. Its capture was thwarted by the Royal Marines of the British frigate, HMS Cumberland, as well as the crew of the Russian Neustrashimy class frigate.The November 11 incident off Somalia's coast occurred 60 nautical miles (110 km) south of the Yemeni coast, in the Gulf of Aden. The engagement was attributed to Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa and was described by The Times as "the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory."

MV Sea Horse

The MV Sea Horse is a ship captured by Somali pirates - the main perpetrator going by the alias, Richard Reardon - in 14 April 2009.It was released 20 April 2009, reportedly for $100,000 or less in ransom.


Mukalla (Arabic: ٱلْمُكَلَّا‎, Al Mukallā) is a seaport and the capital city of Yemen's largest governorate, Hadhramaut. The city is located in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula on the Gulf of Aden, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, about 480 kilometres (300 miles) east of Aden. It is the most important port in the Hadhramaut, and the fifth-largest city in Yemen, with a population of approximately 300,000. The city is served by the nearby Riyan Airport.

Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden

Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden (Korean: 아덴만 여명 작전) was a naval operation by the Republic of Korea Navy against Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. The operation was spurred by the pirates' seizure of the South Korean chemical tanker Samho Jewelry. In response, the South Korean government sent a destroyer and 30 naval commandos to retake the ship and rescue its crew. After trailing the tanker for several days and fighting a preliminary engagement that neutralized four of the pirates, the South Korean forces retook the ship by force on January 21, 2011 in a successful boarding action that resulted in the death of eight and the capture of five out of thirteen pirates.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia

Piracy off the coast of Somalia refers to criminal violence and threats by Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden, Guardafui Channel and Somali Sea, in what some say are disputed territorial waters. It had primarily been a threat to international fishing vessels, expanding to international shipping since the second phase of the Somali Civil War, around 2000.

Fishing communities responded by forming armed groups to deter the invaders by hijacking commercial vessels. But this grew into a lucrative trade, with large ransom payments, and financial gain (piracy) was clearly the main motive.

International organisations began to express concern over the new piracy due to its high cost to global trade and the incentive to profiteer by insurance companies and others. The Somali government has been active in policing the area, though some believe that it wants to collaborate with the pirates as a bulwark against others and to disrupt global trade. An anti-piracy coalition known as Combined Task Force 150 established a Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden, aided by the Indian Navy and Russian Navy. By 2010, these patrols were paying off, with a steady drop in the number of incidents. As of November 2017, there were no major vessels or hostages remaining in pirate captivity. In 2017, few piracy incidents were reported as the navies of Asian and European nations began to more actively rescue hijacked ships including the bulk carrier OS 35.

Smoothtooth blacktip shark

The smoothtooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon) is a species of requiem shark in the family Carcharhinidae. It is known only from the type specimen caught from the Gulf of Aden, off eastern Yemen, and a handful of additional specimens caught from the Persian Gulf, off Kuwait. Reaching 1.2 m (3.9 ft) in length, this species has a stocky greenish-colored body, a short snout, and black-tipped fins. It can be distinguished from similar species by its teeth, which are narrow, erect, and smooth-edged.

Little is known of the smoothtooth blacktip shark's natural history; it likely inhabits shallow waters and feeds on small bony fishes. It is presumably viviparous like other members of its family. The International Union for Conservation of Nature last assessed this species as endangered. Although more specimens have since been discovered, the conservation status of this species remains precarious due to heavy fishing and habitat degradation within its range.

Western Indo-Pacific

The Western Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region of the Earth's seas, comprising the tropical waters of the eastern and central Indian Ocean. It is part of the larger Indo-Pacific, which includes the tropical Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia. The Western Indo-Pacific may be classified as a marine realm, one of the great biogeographic divisions of the world's ocean basins, or as a subrealm of the Indo-Pacific.

The Western Indo-Pacific realm covers the western and central portion of the Indian Ocean, including Africa's east coast, the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Andaman Sea, as well as the coastal waters surrounding Madagascar, the Seychelles, Comoros, Mascarene Islands, Maldives, and Chagos Archipelago.

The transition between the Western Indo-Pacific and Central Indo-Pacific occurs at the Strait of Malacca and in southern Sumatra.

The Western Indo-Pacific does not include the temperate and polar waters of the Indian Ocean, which are part of separate marine realms. The boundary between the Western Indo-Pacific and Temperate Southern Africa marine realms lies in southern Mozambique, where the southernmost mangroves and tropical corals are found.

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