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US Strikes Back After Genco Bulk Carrier Hit by Houthi Attack Drone

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US Strikes Back After Genco Bulk Carrier Hit by Houthi Attack Drone

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 16042
January 17, 2024

The Iranian-backed Houthis have hit another US-owned bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden after the Biden Administration re-designated the group as a “terrorist” organization. The U.S. retaliated by destroying Houthi missile launchers in Yemen in its latest round of military strikes.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations office reported that a vessel was hit on the port side by an Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS), a type of one-type attack drone, while approximately 60 nautical miles southeast of Aden, Yemen. The report said the vessel’s master reported a fire on board had been extinguished.

“Vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to next port of call,” the report said.

The Houthis said the ship targeted is the M/V Genco Picardy, a Supramax bulk carrier owned by U.S.-based Genco Shipping (NYSE: GNK).

The U.S. Central Command eventually confirmed that the Marshall Islands-flagged Genco Picardy was struck by a one-way attack UAS launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen. “There were no injuries and some damage reported. M/V Genco Picardy is seaworthy and continuing underway,” the update said.

Photos Show Damage to ‘Genco Picardy’ from Houthi Drone Strike

On Wednesday evening, the Central Command said U.S. forces conducted tomahawk land-attack cruise missile strikes on 14 Houthi missile launchers that were loaded to be fired in Yemen. “These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves,” CENTCOM said in its statement.

The statement added that “these strikes, along with other actions we have taken, will degrade the Houthi’s capabilities to continue their reckless attacks on international and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.”

Wednesday’s drone attack marks the third hit on a bulk carrier by the Houthis in as many days, including two strikes on American-owned bulk carriers, after earlier attacks largely missed their apparent targets.

On Monday, Jan. 15, the Houthis carried out a successful missile strike on the bulk carrier M/V Gibraltar Eagle, owned by U.S.-based Eagle Bulk Shipping (NYSE: EGLE), while transiting the Gulf of Aden. The following day, the Maltese-flagged bulk carrier M/V Zografia, owned by Greece-based Bonneure Shipping Corp, was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile in the Southern Red Sea. The attack came hours after U.S. military strikes destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile systems in Yemen.

In both cases, there was no significant damage to the ships and the vessels were able to continue without assistance.

“We could easily see more #DryBulk #shipping divert away from #RedSea & #SuezCanal going forward, given recent events,” shipping expert Joakim Hannisdahl wrote on “X”.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have now launched about 30 attacks on commercial shipping using either missiles, one-way attack drones, naval drones, or small craft, since the Nov. 19 hijacking of the Galaxy Leader, which they continue to hold along with its crew.

“The actions by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt the commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander, following Wednesday’s military strikes. “We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people.”

Houthi attacks on shipping seem to have escalated since joint strikes on multiple targets in Yemen by the U.S. and UK on Jan. 11 and a follow-on strike by the U.S. on Houthi radar systems on Jan. 12. The escalation has now prompted the Biden administration to re-designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization due to the attacks.

“These attacks fit the textbook definition of terrorism,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The U.S. Navy on Sunday announced a significant seizure of Iranian weapons destined for Houthi forces in Yemen, marking the first confiscation of such advanced conventional weapons (ACW) since the Houthis began attacking merchant ships late last year. The operation took place in the Arabian Sea, near the coast of Somalia, on Jan. 11, 2024. The operation tragically resulted in the loss of two U.S. Navy SEALs after falling into the water during the boarding.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has issued at least two rounds of sanctions targeting the Iranian-linked financial network backing the Houthis.

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