Houthis Claim Long-Distance Attacks on Three Boxships

Frigate Hessen escorts a boxship in the Red Sea (Bundeswehr)
Frigate Hessen escorts a boxship in the Red Sea (Bundeswehr)

Published Apr 7, 2024 4:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, a spokesman for Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed that the group had attacked three more container ships, including one that appears to have been no closer than 700 nm away from the group's territory. 

In a statement, spokesman Yahya Saree said that within the last 72 hours, Houthi forces had carried out attacks on the merchant ships Hope Island, MSC Grace F and MSC Gina.

He described the Hope Island as British, and the MSC vessels as Israeli; none have clear management links to Britain or Israel, based on their Equasis records, but the Houthis have previously targeted MSC ships.

Saree claimed that MSC Grace F and MSC Gina were hundreds of miles from Yemen in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea at the time of the attacks. The group has previously threatened to extend its geographic reach, though whether it has the technical ability to do so is unclear. 

Based on AIS data, the closest point that MSC Grace F approached to Yemen was the port of Mogadishu, Somalia, located on the other side of the Horn of Africa from Houthi operating areas. The ship appeared to spend a typical 24-hour port call at Mogadishu and returned to the Port of Mombasa.

MSC Gina's AIS transmission has been observed infrequently in the past week - typical for a vessel operating off the Horn of Africa - but she has recently called at Berbera, Somaliland and Salalah, Oman. 

Hope Island was the only vessel to confirm a Houthi attack, and was transiting just off Yemen. On Saturday afternoon, the master reported that the vessel evaded two missiles: The first was shot down by a coalition warship, and the second went into the water nearby. The Hope Island was undamaged and is proceeding to the next port of call. In a familiar pattern, the attacks occurred 10 hours apart, once in the Red Sea and the other when the ship had reached the far side of Bab el-Mandeb, in the Gulf of Aden. 

Hope Island was likely the vessel that a German warship defended from Houthi attack on Saturday. On April 6, the frigate Hessen shot down an incoming missile aimed at a "civilian cargo ship" in the Red Sea, the German military confirmed.   

Houthi forces and coalition warships continued to exchange fire over the weekend. On Saturday, U.S. Central Command forces destroyed a surface-to-air missile system in Houthi territory and shot down one drone over the Red Sea. A coalition warship also defended itself successfully against an inbound missile on Saturday evening.