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Update: Maersk Ship Hit by Missile, Avoids Boarding in the Red Sea

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 156555
December 30, 2023

A Maersk containership has been hit by a missile in the Red Sea, the U.S. has reported. Hours later, the same ship was swarmed by Houthi boats, but the ship avoided the attempted boarding with help from U.S. Navy and its own embarked security team.

The incident marks another major escalation of the Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.

The U.S. Central Command said the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou reported it was struck by a missile while transiting the Southern Red Red Sea at approximately 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

The ship requested assistance and is said to be “seaworthy” with no reported injuries. 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.

Maersk confirmed details of the incident in a statement to gCaptain. The vessel was traveling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait en route from Singapore to Port Suez, Egypt, when the crew observed a “flash” on deck. The vessel and crew are reported safe.

“At approximately 06:30 pm CET, when the vessel was 55nm southwest of Al Hudaydah, Yemen, the crew reported having observed a flash on deck. However, there is no indication of fire onboard the vessel, and we are currently working to ascertain the full details of the incident. The vessel is fully maneuverable and continues the transit north,” the statement said.

“Ensuring the safety of our crew is our utmost priority, and all necessary security measures are implemented to protect them,” the statement added.

Update (December 31): The M/V Maersk Hangzhou has been attacked a second time by four Houthi small boats. The small boats fired upon the ship and attempted to board it, but the embarked security team returned fire. U.S. Navy helicopters responded to the distress call and engaged with the small boats, sinking three of them and killing the crews. No U.S. personnel or equipment were damaged. Maersk has reportedly suspended transits through the Red Sea for 48 hours. See the story here.

The Maersk Hangzhou is a 14,000-capacity containership deployed on Maersk’s AE12-service between Europe and Asia.

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 some other 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 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since the November 19 hijacking of the Galaxy Leader car carrier, which continues by be held in Yemeni waters.

Full Red Sea Coverage: Red Sea Shipping Attacks

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