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Houthis Launch Ballistic Missiles at Panamax Container Ship

Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles on parade (Houthi Military Media)
Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles on parade (Houthi Military Media)

Published Mar 11, 2024 9:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, Houthi forces continued their campaign against Red Sea shipping with the launch of two ballistic missiles at a Liberian-flagged merchant ship. U.S. forces responded by destroying 18 Houthi missiles on the ground and - not for the first time - taking out an unmanned underwater vessel. 

At about 0850 hours and again at about 1250, Houthi militants launched anti-ship ballistic missiles at the Panamax boxship Pinocchio, according to U.S. Central Command. The vessel's crew told the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) that they had detected the sound of an explosion near the vessel as they transited about 70 nautical miles off Saleef, Yemen.

Neither missile hit the target, and the Pinocchio continued on its commercial voyage. 

Pinocchio's commercial operator is SeaLead, a small container line with offices in Singapore and Dubai. The firm has a history in the area: it started its business providing feeder services in the Red Sea in 2017 and expanded from a core base of Middle East routes. It was recently purchased by a consortium of four investment companies. 

Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree confirmed the attack and said that the group had targeted an "American ship." He claimed that the strike was successful, though he provided no evidence that the ship had been hit. Its last AIS position suggests that it has exited the southern Red Sea and reached safety off Saudi Arabia.  

Houthi leaders have pledged to only strike ships that are connected to the U.S., the UK or Israel, though vessels with other connections have also been attacked

Later in the day, U.S. Central Command carried out six strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen. American forces destroyed 18 anti-ship missiles on the ground, along with an "unmanned underwater vessel." All posed an "imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region," CENTCOM said.