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USS Carney combat information center

Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) stand watch in the ship’s Combat Information Center during an operation to defeat a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, Oct. 19. Carney is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Navy photo by Aaron Lau)

Maersk Opens Fire On Houthi Boat Swarm – US Navy Sinks Three

John Konrad
Total Views: 42165
December 31, 2023

by John Konrad (gCaptain) Today in the Red Sea, the crew of the Maersk Hangzhou took evasive action and opened fire on Houthi boats that were aggressively swarming the ship just hours after it was hit by an anti-ship missile. Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower responded and sunk three of the four attacking boats.

“The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews,” the US Navy reported in a statement. “The fourth boat fled the area.”

In response to the attacks, Maersk has decided to pause all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours.

Time Line Of Attack

Last Night, U.S. Central Command reported the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou issued a distress call when it was struck by a missile while transiting the Southern Red Sea at approximately 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday. The USS Gravely and USS Laboon responded to the incident, with the USS Gravely successfully shooting down two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The ship and crew were reported safe from the attack.

Sunday morning, the crew was woken by alarms when the ship was targeted again by Houthi forces at 6:30 AM local time. The ship encountered four small boats manned by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. These attackers, heavily armed with crew-served and small arms, made a bold and dangerous attempt to board the vessel, closing into a mere 20 meters. The situation intensified as the Maersk security team engaged fire to prevent the boarding.

Responding swiftly to the distress call, U.S. helicopters from the USS EISENHOWER and USS GRAVELY arrived at the scene. As they attempted to de-escalate the situation with verbal warnings, the Houthi boats opened fire on the helicopters. In a decisive action to protect the vessel and crew, the U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire sinking of three of the Houthi boats and forcing the retreat of the fourth, effectively neutralizing the immediate threat.

Remarkably, there were no reported injuries or damage to U.S. personnel or equipment during this tense confrontation. Central Command did not disclose information about the damage, if any, sustained by the Maersk ship.

Did Maersk Return To The Red Sea Too Soon?

The incident comes has Maersk has been resuming transits through the Red Sea with the establishment of the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) naval coalition, while many carriers have opted to continue to reroute ships around the Cape of Good Hope due to safety concerns as the Iran-backed Houthis have continued to carry out missile attacks against commercial shipping.

Maersk suspended transits through the Red Sea back on December 15 a day after a near-miss missile attack on the Maersk Gibraltar near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. The announcement by Maersk led to other operators also suspending voyages and redirecting ships around the Cape of Good Hope. Since then about half of the containerships that normally transit the region have been rerouted. 

Denmark on Friday said it was sending a frigate to join Operation Prosperity Guardian. 

The Central Command said the incident the 24th illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since the November 19 hijacking of the Galaxy Leader car carrier by a combined helicoper and boat attack. The Galaxy Leader continues by be held in Yemeni waters.

In response to the attacks, Maersk has decided to pause all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours.

Also Read: Danish Unions Secure Hazard Pay for Mariners Navigating the Red Sea

Full Red Sea Coverage: Red Sea Shipping Attacks

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