Houthis Make Second Approach to GENCO Bulker Undeterred by U.S. Strikes
The Houthi rebels are continuing undeterred by the military efforts of the U.S. and other nations vowing that they will continue to strike out at commercial shipping. Despite five strikes by the U.S., they continued their attacks on Thursday with two incidents targeting American ships, including a second approach to the GENCO bulker Genco Picardy.
U.S. Central Command on Thursday only confirmed the two missiles fired at the Chem Ranger (26,000 dwt), a U.S.-owned, Greek-managed chemical tanker sailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Kuwait. The report said the missiles were observed impacting the water near the ship without damage. The UK Maritime Trade Organizations however said around the same time four drones were observed flying close to an unnamed merchant ship approximately 85 miles southeast of Ash Shihr, Yemen.
The second vessel targeted has now been listed as the Genco Picardy (55,300 dwt), the U.S.-owned bulker registered in the Marshall Islands that was also targeted the previous night and struck by a drone. The Indian Navy reported that they had inspected the ship on Thursday to ensure that there were no explosives aboard and that it was continuing its voyage. Later Thursday, the Houthis again targeted the ship with four drones and one was seen exploding 800 meters from the vessel. The ship’s AIS signal now shows the Genco Picardy heading to the port at Tuticorin, India.
These incidents both happened in the Gulf of Aden showing that the U.S. strikes had possibly caused a shift from the southern Red Sea. The U.S. and UK initially last week struck infrastructure including radar. The U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday reported striking missiles that were prepared for launch bring to five the total number of reported sorties in the past week.
President Joe Biden speaking with reporters yesterday in Washington, D.C. said the U.S. efforts would continue including the strikes on Houthi assets. He admitted that the strikes have so far not stopped the Houthi aggression while the U.S. Defense Department emphasized the U.S. is in a defensive operation and not at war with the people of Yemen. Late on Friday, CENTCOM reported the sixth strike on Houthi position. They said that three Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch, were destroyed in "self-defense."
The EU mission in the region, Atalanta, reports that with the two attacks on Thursday, a total of 40 merchant vessels have now been targeted. They also reflect several additional incidents of drones shot down in the Red Sea without a specific target.
Picture posted by the Houthi of the reported rally of support on January 19 in the capital of Yemen (X/Twitter)
In their analysis of the situation, the Atalanta command writes, “The Houthis are anticipated to persist in targeting vessels associated with Israeli interests along the Yemeni coast … Recent developments may also prompt them to focus on ships from other nations, notably the US and UK. However, the specific connections they will exploit between these ships and these nations remain unclear. Moreover, the increasing number of ships being targeted, despite no apparent evidence of a link with any of these countries, underscores the notion that any ship is susceptible to Houthi targeting.”
The attempts at boarding they observe might not be repeated due to the increased military presence and specifically the U.S. shooting of the rebels that approached the Maersk Hangzhou on December 31. Despite that, they are advising Israeli-related ships to limited AIS data and to prefer night transits in the south Red Sea to avoid skiffs and other supporting assets assisting the Houthi. For all ships, they are advising avoiding the waters near Yemen, only having essential crew on the navigation deck, other crew should remain away from the outside walls of the ship, and conducting a fire drill to check safety equipment before reaching the area near Yemen.
The Houthi today however reported a massive turnout for a rally at Al-Sabeen Square in the capital of Sana’a. They said that the crowd was “chanting slogans in support for the operations of the armed forces.”