BY Anna Cummins on 3 May 2023

There are conflicting accounts over how the classic superyacht became embroiled in a gunfight


Kalizma. Image: Shirish121067 via Wikimedia Commons

One person has been killed in a shootout involving the 50-metre superyacht Kalizma, formerly owned by legendary actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, off the Yemen coast.

The Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG) claims that the yacht’s private guards mistakenly opened fire on a YCG vessel in an incident that took place Friday 28 April 2023 at 2:28am, in the Gulf of Aden. The YCG says a Yemeni soldier was killed in the altercation.

However, Aashim Mongia, the owner of Mumbai’s West Coast Marine Yacht Services, which manages Kalizma, has told media that there was no case of “mistaken identity” and insists the superyacht’s guards were shooting at pirates impersonating the coast guard. According to Mongia, the people who had attacked the vessel first returned in multiple waves, with guards firing over 200 rounds to safeguard the nine crew members on board.

Owner Shirish Saraf publicly states that Kalizma was travelling to Egypt when the vessel was pursued by pirates for between four and five hours. It is understood that a nine-strong crew was aboard the yacht, including the captain, at the time of the altercation — in addition to three security guards.

Gulf of Aden

Gulf of Aden

Yemeni authorities refute these claims, stating that the yacht was not flying any national flag and did not respond to repeated attempts to contact them via radio, despite being in Yemeni territorial waters. The YCG claims that they had approached the yacht to attract the crew’s attention and request that they stop, but the yacht allegedly began firing at the Yemeni law-enforcement boats.

The Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG) has now issued an official statement saying that Kalizma did not “have any justification nor right to use arms and ammunition.” The coast guard asserts the crew were warned several times that the approaching vessels were the Yemen law enforcement agencies, YCG & Navy. “The crew onboard were all in military dress and the boats were of naval design, not of a traditional fishing boat design,” the statement continues.

Although details of what happened remain unclear, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, part of the Royal Navy, has downgraded its initial alert from “attack” to “incident” and confirmed that it was government agency activity. The situation is ongoing.

Pictures taken onboard Kalizma show the yacht has sustained significant damage, including numerous bullet holes to both her interior and exterior.

Kalizma was commissioned and built in 1906 and has a storied history, hosting guests such as Princess Grace of Monaco and Tennessee Williams. The vessel underwent a refit in 2020 and subsequently won a Neptune Award in 2022.

For more Yachting news click here