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Houthi Attack on MSC Ship in Indian Ocean Indicates Further Range

Yemen
Map indicates the further distance from Yemen of the latest attack (UKMTO)

Published Apr 30, 2024 3:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Details of the attack on the MSC Orion (158,000 dwt) were confirmed today by the maritime security forces in the region after the Houthi claimed an attack on the vessel yesterday as part of their latest barrage. The incident however is raising troubling questions as the vessel was at a much greater distance from Yemen possibly indicating the Houthi have extended the range of their drones.

The UK Maritime Trade Organizations and Joint Maritime Information Center are confirming the details of the attack on the MSC Orion which came overnight on April 26 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 which is registered in Portugal and owned by Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime chartered to MSC 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. Her AIS signal is off but the last indication is that she was bound for Salalah, Oman. Built in 2020 by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea, she is a larger ship with a capacity of 15,000 TEU.

The Houthi in mid-March had threatened to expand the zone of attack to include portions of the Indian Ocean. They said they would disrupt ships attempting to divert away from the Red Sea and traveling around Africa. So far, while there have been several other Indian Ocean attacks, this is the first confirmed at these distances.

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.

Previously, for example, the tanker Marlin Luanda was approximately 60 miles from Aden when it was struck. The vessel was hit by a missile in January which caused a fire. The bulker True Confidence was approximately 50 miles offshore when it was struck in an attack that killed three crewmembers.

So far, none of the military and monitoring operations have specifically commented on the distance of this attack with the UKMTO repeating its standard comment about caution. Security analysts are however warning that it could raise new concerns for shipping that has already been forced to take longer routes to avoid the dangers.