Houthi drone attacks diverted MSC Orion in Arabian Sea

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Reports by the Houthis in Yemen claim that a drone attack was successfully carried out on another MSC container ship, MSC Orion (IMO 9857157).

What is significant, apart from the attack, is that the Portuguese-flagged vessel was in the Arabian Sea some 375 miles off the Yemeni coast when struck by what appeared to be a drone.

The 366-metre long, 51 metre wide, 158 097-dwt ship was sailing between East Africa and the Omani port of Salalah when attacked, having apparently rounded the Cape to avoid having to travel through the Red Sea. MSC Orion departed from the Portuguese port of Sines on 6 April 2024 and was last reported by AIS passing the Comoros on 24 April 2024.

After the attack, wreckage from the drone was apparently discovered on the vessel. No serious damage was reported.

The UK Maritime Trade Organisations (UKMTO) and Joint Maritime Information Centre (JMIC) are confirming the details of the attack on the MSC Orion which came overnight on 26 April but was only announced between April 29 and 30. According to the JMIC, the vessel was in the Indian Ocean approximately 300 nautical miles east-southeast of the Horn of Africa, or more than 170 nautical miles south of Socotra island. The UKMTO puts the vessel’s position up to 400 nautical miles from the mainland of Yemen.

The ship reported an explosion and found some debris believed to be from a “Uncrewed Aerial System.” The ship sustained some minor damage with the report that the crew was uninjured and that the ship was proceeding.

This appears to be the furthest from Houthi-controlled sections of Yemen that a missile or drone attack has been carried out.

It will also mean that no ship sailing in the Gulf of Aden or the Arabian Sea off the Yemen coast can be considered safe from attack.

The Houthis are believed to be using drones manufactured in Iran. Military experts report Iran has claimed a capability of over 650 nautical miles for its drones and possibly further for its missiles.

Considering that US reports early in the conflict between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza stated that the Houthis had fired missiles from Yemen in the direction of Israel, which the US claimed were shot down by US Navy ships in the Red Sea, these would also have been long-distance missiles.

MSC Orion, on charter to the Swiss/Italian company, is reported to be connected with London-based Zodiac Maritime, which in turn forms part of Israeli millionaire shipowner Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Her nominal ownership however is listed as Bafalo Shipping Inc, care of MSC in Switzerland, with ship management also in the hands of MSC via its Cyprus office. This has remained unchanged since the ship entered service in January 2020.

Written by Africa Ports & Ships with input from defenceWeb and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.