Hapag and MSC Containerships Attacked as Red Sea Situation Escalates

Red Sea Yemen
UKMTO reports at least two of the incidents took place near the Yemen port of Mokha (UKMTO)

Published Dec 15, 2023 11:59 AM by The Maritime Executive


The situation in the Red Sea continues to escalate with Houthi rebels increasing their attacks on shipping as they vow to stop all ships with ties to Israel. Both Hapag-Lloyd and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company are confirming reports that their vessels have been attacked while the Houthis are saying they launched the attacks only after the vessels failed to respond to orders either not to enter the Red Sea or to sail toward Yemen.

Warships from the United States, France, and now a British destroyed dispatched into the region, as well as other allies, were unable to intercept today’s attacks. An unidentified U.S. spokesperson told the wire services that a U.S. destroyer had been dispatched after the attacks to provide assistance but it appears no warships were near the targeted vessels and no attempts were made to shoot down drones or missiles. United Kingdom Trade Operations (UKMTO) issued a warning early today saying it had a report of a small white vessel with a black top and 10 people aboard approaching at least one vessel saying it was the Yemeni Navy and ordering it to sail toward a port in Yemen,

Hapag-Lloyd confirmed to the wire services that one of its vessels had been struck by a projectile and suffered some damage although the crew was uninjured. The Liberian-registered Al Jasrah (149,380 dwt) was stuck with reports saying it was unclear at this time if it was from a drone or a missile. UKMTO reports that there was an explosion and a small fire aboard the vessel was extinguished by the crew. Late today. US CENTCOM said it believes the containership was hit by a UAV launched from Houthi held territory as it was travelling south in the Red Sea.

The Al Jasrah which was built in 2016 and has a capacity of 14,500 TEU is reported to be heading from Piraeus, Greece to Singapore. The vessel was 30 miles southwest of the port of Mokha, Yemen in the vicinity of the Bab El Mandeb Strait when it was attacked. UK security consultants Ambrey in its account of the attack said the vessel was struck on the port side causing some damage. One or more containers are thought to have been lost overboard due to the impact which caused the explosion and subsequent fire. CENTCOM reproted it was in contact with the vessel that alter told them that it did not require further assistance.

The Houthis in their statement did not mention the attack on the Al Jasrah, instead highlighting the targeting of two containerships operated by MSC, including one with a similar name. Speculation is that the attack on the Hapag ship might have been an error.

The MSC Alanya (120,000 dwt) also registered in Liberia was one of the two vessels targeted and also has similar dimensions to the Hapag vessel. The ship, which was built in 2021 and has a capacity of 11,500 TEU, had departed Salalah, Oman and was bound for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

MSC confirmed to the wire services that the vessel was approached by a small boat demanding that it not enter the Red Sea. The vessel was ordered to head south according to CENTCOM but instead continued toward the Red Sea. Its location is unclear from the reports and MSC insists that the vessel was not attacked. Security reports are that the ship took evasive measures with CENTCOM reported it continued north and was believed to be traveling safely.

Security services and the Houthi are saying they also targeted the MSC Palatium III (34,300 dwt), a smaller vessel also registered in Liberia. The ship was coming from Mombasa, India and bound for Jeddah. Two ballistic missiles were fire towards the international shipping lanes in the Bab el-Mandeb strait CENTCOM reports. The MSC ship was 23 miles southwest of Mokha and reported that it was hit by one of the missiles. CENTCOM reported that the crew said it was fighting a fire and requested assistance. The USS Mason was responding to the ship. The British monitoring service reported late today that a vessel, believed to be the MSC Palatium III had departed the area safely,

CENTCOM is saying that no one was injured in today's attacks but that they are "yet another demonstration of the great risk to international shipping caused by these Houthi actions." UKMTO continues to advise caution while transiting the area and reporting of suspicious activity while the investigations are ongoing into the recent attacks.