Yet another merchant vessel attacked in the Red Sea

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In what is becoming an almost daily occurrence, Houthi forces have attacked another merchant vessel transiting the Gulf of Aden.

US Central Command said Houthis struck the Marshall Islands-flagged, Bermuda-owned M/V Marlin Luanda on 27 January with an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM). The vessel is transporting a cargo of Naphtha, a highly flammable liquid hydrogen mixture. Following the missile strike, a major fire ensued in one of the cargo holds.

Fortunately, swift action by multinational naval forces averted a potential disaster. The US Navy’s USS Carney (DDG 64), the French Navy Frigate FS Alsace (D656), and the Indian Navy Frigate INS Visakhapatnam (DD66) promptly responded to the distress call, providing critical firefighting material and assistance to the civilian crew onboard. Despite the intense fire, there were no casualties reported, and the ship remains seaworthy, having resumed its previous course after the fire was extinguished.

Also on 27 January, in the early hours of the morning, US Central Command forces conducted a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile in Yemen aimed into the Red Sea and which was prepared to launch.

Houthi strikes on shipping – in support of the Palestinian cause in Gaza – continue on a regular basis, with consequent retaliation by US-led forces. For example, on 26 January Houthis fired an ASBM that struck the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker M/V Marlin Luanda, inflicting some damage but no injuries. That same day they fired an ASBM towards the USS Carney, which managed to shoot it down.

Two days before, on 24 January, Houthis fired several ASBMs at the US-flagged, owned, and operated container ship M/V Maersk Detroit, transiting the Gulf of Aden. One missile impacted the sea and the other two were shot down by the USS Gravely (DDG 107). That same day, Central Command struck two Houthi anti-ship missiles in Yemen.

Together with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, the US conducted strikes on eight Houthi targets in areas of Yemen on 22 January in response to “increased Houthi destabilizing and illegal activities in the region.” The targets included missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities.

“These strikes are intended to degrade Houthi capability to continue their reckless and unlawful attacks on US and UK ships as well as international commercial shipping in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden. These strikes are separate and distinct from the multinational freedom of navigation actions performed under Operation Prosperity Guardian,” Central Command said in a statement.

Other recent Houthi attacks on shipping have targeted the M/V Chem Ranger on 18 January (targeted but not hit), the M/V Genco Picardy (hit and damaged on 17 January) and the M/V Zografia (hit and damaged on 16 January).