Maersk Containership Has Near Miss with Missile Fired from Yemen

Maersk containership
A missle reported landed near a Maersk ship transiting in the Red Sea (file photo)

Published Dec 14, 2023 10:41 AM by The Maritime Executive


A Hong Kong-registered containership operating for Maersk reportedly had a close call with a missile fired from Yemen at midday on Thursday, December 14. United Kingdom Trade Operations (UKMTO) is citing a report from an unnamed vessel that sighted an explosion approximately 50 meters off its port quarter in the area of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

The vessel is being identified as the Maersk Gibraltar, a containership built in 2016 owned by Seaspan and operating under charter to Maersk. The shipping company confirmed to the Danish publication Shipping Watch that one of its vessels had been involved in an incident reporting that the crew and ship were both unharmed and the voyage was continuing.

The vessel is 119,000 dwt with a capacity of 10,100 TEU. Her AIS data indicates that she departed Salalah, Oman on December 12 and is due to arrive in two days on December 16 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

UKMTO is also relaying reports that the vessel was also contacted by entities claiming to be the “Yemeni Navy.”  The containership was reportedly ordered to change course toward Yemen. As with the incident yesterday when two missiles were fired at another tanker, the ship continued on course and there was no further interaction with the attackers. In yesterday’s incident, a speed boat was also used to approach the tanker but the small boat withdrew when security guards aboard the tanker fired warning shots.

There have been multiple reports in the past few days of vessels being contacted by individuals claiming to be the Yemeni authorities and ordering vessels to change course for port. None of the demands however have been followed up with direction actions similar to the capture of the Galaxy Leader last month. UKMTO last week issued a warning to all vessels traveling the area regarding this tactic advising caution.

A spokesperson for the Houthi said today that the attack was launched only after the vessel disobeyed their orders. They contended that the vessel was hit and damaged by a drone attack. Contacted by Reuters, Maersk strong denied the reports of the vessel being damaged and reiterated that the crew was safe. Maersk used today's events to call attention to the situation in the region highlighting that it puts seafarer lives at risk and calling the situation "unsustainable" for global trade. It is calling for “political action” to restore safety in the region.

In addition to the incident near the strait, UKMTO issued a second warring today for the Gulf of Admen. They were investigating reports of suspicious activity. Later this was updated to report a suspected boarding of an unidentified vessel believed to be a large bulker. Yesterday, they issued a warning after an unnamed vessel traveling approximately 90 nautical miles south of Al Dumq, Oman reported being followed by five to six small boats for at least 90 minutes. The warning said the small boats appeared to be equipped with powerful outboard motors and at least one had a machine gun mounted near the bow.

Today’s missile attack came as Iran released a statement in state media calling the U.S. plan to establish a multi-national force to ensure safe transit in the Red Sea “foolish.” Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani is quoted by the Mehr News Agency saying he was confident the United States would not carry out the action because “it would cause numerous problems.” U.S. officials have said that Iran is behind these attacks supporting the rebels in Yemen.

Maersk last month reported that it was rerouting two of its containerships after the incidents began in the Red Sea. The Lisa (4,250 TEU) and the Maersk Pangani (5,300 TEU), both owned by XT Shipping, an Israeli company based in Haifa, and registered in Liberia, were diverted from their normal routes. The Lisa was discharging cargo in Salalah, before returning to Asia while the Maersk Pangani skipped scheduled stops in the Middle East and proceeded directly to India.