Greek Bulker Hit as Houthis Continue Undeterred in Their Aggression

bulker and warship EUNAVFOR
Ships are continuing Red Sea transits despite reports of several incidents today (EUNAVFOR file photo)

Published Jan 16, 2024 2:47 PM by The Maritime Executive


A Greek-owned bulker was the latest vessel to be hit by a missile launched by the Houthis as the group reports it is continuing undeterred in its efforts to disrupt trade and shipping associated with Israel. U.S. and international forces confirmed at least two new attacks today as the U.S. continued its efforts with strikes and interdictions to disrupt the Houthis’ attacks.

In the early hours of today, Tuesday, January 16, the U.S. reports it launched new assaults on Houthi positions without detailing if it was with missiles launched from warships or the air. They are reporting that four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were destroyed before they could be launched. According to the reports they were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. 

This follows similar targeted strikes on radar installations in Yemen last Friday, January 12, and the initial strikes carried out by the U.S. and UK the prior day. Before that, on January 11, US Navy SEALs seized weapons in an interdiction off Somalia. 

Despite these efforts, the Houthis have continued and in their latest statement said they would be undeterred. A commander said that a response to the American and British attacks was “inevitable,” while saying their mission continues to be Israeli ships or ships supporting Israel. They however also said that American and British ships and warships were now also considered targets.

The next report of an attack came at 1100 UTC today (1:45 p.m. local time according to CENTCOM) when an anti-ship ballistic missile was fired by the Houthi into the shipping lanes in the southern Red Sea. The Greek-owned bulk carrier Zografia (56,894 dwt) was hit in a location approximately 76 miles northwest of Yemen in the Red Sea. 

According to reports, the vessel suffered minor damage in the cargo area. The bulker which is registered in Malta is on a voyage that began in China with stops in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Ambrey’s analysis believes the Zografia was targeted due to a previous call in Israel. The ship’s owner confirmed the strike saying the crew of 24 was uninjured while the Greek media reported that none of the crew were Greeks, but did not provide their nationalities. CENTCOM said the vessel remained seaworthy and was continuing its voyage while unconfirmed reports had it heading for port.

The UK Maritime Trade Organizations reported an additional incident also in the Red Sea. Around the same time the bulker was struck, the master of another unidentified vessel reported an approach by small boats. The vessel had armed security guards who fired warning shots into the water. The four small boats that had come within 400 meters departed and the vessel continued its voyage.

The situation remains tense while vessels are continuing to transit the region. Multiple naval forces are also operational in the area attempting to maintain navigation. 

Since the U.S. began its strikes at the end of last week, multiple shipping companies however have reported they are joining the efforts to reroute ships. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Shell has elected to suspend Red Sea following BP which started rerouting ships in mid-December. 

Yesterday, it was widely reported that QatarEnergy had also paused its ships while it was reviewing security. Reuters reports the ships resumed sailing today but the three ultra-large carriers that were previously holding east of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden all appear to have turned south. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Qatar’s prime minister called for an end to the conflict in Gaza noting that LNG will be impacted by the problems in the Red Sea noting that there are alternative routes but they are less efficient. He stopped short of confirming that they would be rerouting vessels.

Reuters is quoting sources in the insurance industry pointing out that for vessels that are continuing to enter the Red Sea insurance rates have risen. War premiums they report are up to one percent of the vessel’s value and are expected to rise higher as the security situation remains unsettled.