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The Gulf of Aden ( ; transliterated: Khalīj 'Adan, ) is located in the Arabian Seamarker between Yemenmarker on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula and Somaliamarker in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Seamarker through the Bab-el-Mandebmarker strait, which is about 20 miles wide.

The waterway is part of the important Suez canalmarker shipping route between the Mediterranean Seamarker and the Arabian Seamarker in the Indian Oceanmarker with 21,000 ships crossing the gulf annually. The gulf is known by the nickname "Pirate Alley" due to the large amount of pirate activity in the area.

Commerce and trade

The Gulf of Aden is a vital waterway for shipping, especially for Persian Gulfmarker oil, making it an integral waterway in the world economy. Approximately 11 percent of the world's seaborne petroleum passes through the Gulf of Aden on its way to the Suez Canalmarker or to regional refineries. The main ports along the gulf are Adenmarker in Yemenmarker, and Zeilamarker, Berberamarker, and Bosasomarker in Somaliamarker.

In earlier history, the city of Crater, located just east of the modern city of Aden, was an important port in regional trade. Crater was the principal harbor of the pre-Islamic kingdom of Awsan, and after its annexation by the kingdom of Saba at the end of the 5th century, the port of Crater played a significant role in connecting Africa with Arabia.

Hydrography

The temperature of the Gulf of Aden varies between and , depending on the season and the appearance of monsoons. The salinity of the gulf at depth varies from 35.3 along the eastern Somali coast to as high as 37.3 ‰ in the gulf's center, while the oxygen content in the Gulf of Aden at the same depth is typically between 4.0 and 5.0 mL/L.

Ecology

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, but environmental groups fear that the lack of a coordinated effort to control pollution may jeopardize the gulf's ecosphere.

Piracy

1860 map of Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is an area known for acts of piracy, making its waters dangerous for water transport. The main cause of piracy in the gulf is the lack of any viable government in Somalia. The International Maritime Bureau reported over two dozen actual and attempted attacks in 2007 in the gulf off of the coast of Somalia.

On 4 April 2008, pirates commandeered a Frenchmarker luxury yacht in the Gulf of Aden with 34 crew members off the coast of Somalia.

On 21 August 2008, a dry cargo ship going from China to the Netherlands with 40,000 tons of iron ore, a crew of 29 and an Iranian flag was hijacked in international waters in the gulf. As a result of talks the ship and its crew were released on October 10th.

On 15 September 2008, the Japanesemarker chemical tanker Stolt Valor was seized by pirates in the gulf off Somalia. The crew of 22 consisted of 18 Indians, two Filipinos, one Bangladeshi and one Russian. This vessel was later released on 16 November 2008 after 62 days in captivity, allegedly after a ransom of $ 2.5 Million was paid to the pirates.
In order to deter piracy, the Maritime Security Patrol Area, a narrow corridor through the center of the gulf, was established in 22 September 2008 by the Combined Task Force 150.

On 4 October 2008, pirates attacked an arms ship. Four attempts were foiled by counter-piracy maneuvering, and there were no captives or injuries reported in these encounters with Gulf pirates.

On 11 November 2008 Jag Arnav a 38,265-tonne bulk carrier, owned by Mumbaimarker-based Great Eastern Shipping Company was attacked by pirates. The ship sent an SOS call which was picked up by an Indian Navy warship INS Tabar, patrolling the region. An armed helicopter with marine commandos was launched from the naval warship INS Tabar to intervene and prevent the pirates from boarding and hijacking the merchant vessel. The helicopter attacked the pirates by firing on them, forcing them to abort the hijack attempt and escape from there.

The Indian Navy warship INS Tabar claimed to have destroyed a pirate “mother ship” in the evening of 18 November 2008; the nature of the ship has since been disputed by the ship's owner. The ship was the Ekawat Nava 5, a deep-sea trawler whose crew was being held hostage below-deck by pirates at the time of the encounter.

In December 2008, pirates attempted to hijack a US-based luxury cruising vessel, Nautica, but the vessel sped to safety. Yet another attempt by pirates was made on December 13 to hijack a cargo vessel flying an Ethiopian flag. After receiving the May Day call, an Indian Navy ship INS Mysoor came to its rescue and captured 23 pirates, including those of Somali and Yemeni origin.

Moreover, a number of terrorist attacks have been carried out in the gulf, including the 2000 attack on the American guided missile destroyer the USS Colemarker.

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