A Superyacht and the Yemeni Coast Guard Got Into a Deadly Shootout. Here’s What We Know.

Last Friday’s shootout between the crew of a vintage motoryacht, the 165-foot Kalizma and Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG), continues to raise more questions than answers, though more details have emerged. The Associated Press reported that the three-man security team on the yacht, once owned by Richard Burton, believed that two small, unmarked skiffs pursuing the vessel were pirates. Aashim Mongia, the yacht’s manager, told the wire service there was no chance of “mistaken identity” and that the boats were pirates masquerading as security forces. “If it was the Yemeni Coast Guard, why did they open fire?” Mongia asked, per the AP.

The yacht’s owner Shirish Saraf said that the vessel was on its way to Egypt through the Gulf of Aden and was chased by the smaller vessels for four hours. It remains unclear which side started the firefight, but witnesses on board the vessel said that over 150 rounds were exchanged. The YCG issued a statement today saying that their “patrol boats introduced themselves and tried to communicate with the yacht via the VHF radio-bridge to bridge COMMS, but the yacht captain did not respond to the repeated calls.”

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Superyacht Kalizma was involved in a firefight off the coast of Yemen on Friday with Yemeni Coast Guard.
The yacht, which had undergone an extensive refit in 2020, was on its way to Egypt when the incident happened.

The yacht, said the YCG, was not flying a flag and was sailing in Yemeni territorial waters. After hailing the vessel, the statement said, Kalizma increased its speed and fired on the coast guard vessels, which returned fire. One Yemeni soldier was killed and others were wounded, with damage to the vessels. One of the yacht’s security guards was reportedly shot in the neck. Bullet holes were photographed across Kalizma’s wooden hull.

Kalizma‘s managers say Indian aircraft patrolling the area identified multiple pirate skiffs, and that other distress calls regarding pirates had been made from merchant ships. The team said that the yacht made repeated but unanswered calls to the other vessels and that the vessels had no AIS tracking numbers.

Superyacht Kalizma was involved in a firefight off the coast of Yemen on Friday with Yemeni Coast Guard.
Bullet holes in the stern.

The YCG said in the statement that “the Yemeni government reserves its rights regarding what resulted from the incident, as the yacht entered the territorial waters of Yemen and was sailing without showing a flag.”

Whether this is a question of mistaken identify on behalf of the yacht crew or a legitimate pirate threat is still unclear. It’s also not clear how much damage the yacht sustained.

Kalizma was built in 1906. Burton bought the vessel in 1967 for $220,000. The boat was later purchased by Saraf, an Indian investor who owns Samena Capital. The vessel is able to accommodate up to 10 guests, with 10 crew. It was completely refurbished in 2020, according to its website, with both new interior and exterior layouts.

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