International Coalition Forces Stop Two New Attacks from Yemen

Navy surveillance of merchant vessels
Coalition forces are monitoring vessels transiting the Red Sea and continue to intervene in attacks (Combined Maritime Force photo)

Published Jan 6, 2024 6:26 PM by The Maritime Executive


Despite the repeated ultimatums from the international community for the attacks against merchant ships in the Red Sea area to stop, there were two new incidents reported on Saturday, January 6. Coalition forces intervened in both incidents with no merchant ships being harmed, but the continued fears are still impacting operations.

Today’s two incidents appeared to be independent of each other but demonstrated the continuing efforts coming from Houthis who continue to assert that they are supporting Hamas and the Palestinians. On Friday, a Hamas spokesperson posted online that they had conducted a rally in Sabeen Square in Yemen’s capital Sana’a which “mass crowds” attended in support. They asserted it was the largest turnout since the start of the war against Hamas.

This morning an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen was identified by the U.S. destroyer USS Laboon. CENTCOM reports there were multiple commercial vessels in the vicinity in the southern Red Sea. The USS Laboon shot down the drone in what the U.S. command called self-defense. There were no casualties or damage reported.

Later an unidentified merchant vessel reported to the UK Maritime Trade Organizations that it was being approached by six small crafts. The incident took place approximately 50 nautical miles southeast of Mocha, Yemen. The small crafts came within one nautical mile of the merchant vessel but no weapons were seen. Coalition forces assisted and the six small vessels cleared the area. UKMTO reports the vessel and crew were safe and continuing their voyage.

At the same time, the Indian Navy reports that it is continuing to assist a bulker, the Lila Norfolk, after the vessel was boarded by pirates in the Arabian Sea. The Indian Navy now believes that the pirates were scared off by its warnings overnight on Thursday into Friday. During the daylight hours Friday, an elite team from the Indian Navy, the MARCOS force, boarded the bulker and “undertook thorough sanitization of the upper decks, machinery compartments, and living spaces. The team did not find any pirates onboard.”

The crew of the Lila Norfolk is safe and the Indian Navy reports the crew is “restoring propulsion, power supply, and steering gear.” The Navy is prepared to escort the bulker from the area while they are also investigating the suspected vessels in the area.

As the attacks continue, Maersk on Friday advised customers that it has decided to defer for the foreseeable future all transits of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They will be sending all containerships around Africa after one of their vessels was attacked twice last weekend in the Red Sea. Similarly, Hapag-Lloyd confirmed on Friday to The Maritime Executive that it is continuing to divert all its vessels while saying it is closely monitoring developments in the area. They have formed a crisis committee which will meet again on Monday, January 9, to review the status of security in the Red Sea area.

At this point, most containerships are diverting. Ryan Petersen, the founder and CEO of Flexport, a logistics platform, writes today on social media that “95 percent of containerships that would’ve transited the Red Sea are now going around the southern tip of Africa.”