MSC

MSC containership attacked in Red Sea amid liners’ gradual return to strategic waters

MSC United, a Post Panamax containership owned by Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), was attacked while transiting the Red Sea.

Illustration; Image credit: MSC

The attack was confirmed by the Yemeni Armed Forces’ Spokesperson Yahya Sare’e, saying that the ship was targeted by naval missiles. The statement reiterated that the attack is part of the strategy of targeting ‘all Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine, with their full concern for the continuation of safe maritime traffic to all destinations except the Israeli’.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm the continuation of their operations in the Red and Arab Seas against Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine until the food and medicine enter to Gaza Strip,” the statement further reads.

Israel continues to pound Gaza with air strikes despite UN-led calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on December 22, following the adoption of a resolution to get more aid into Gaza, that more than 20,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed and 1.9 million people, 85 percent of the population, forced to flee their homes. 

Gaza’s health system is on its knees, clean water is at a trickle and the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned of the threat of widespread famine, the UN said.

“A humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare,” Guterres said. 

MSC confirmed the incident adding that following the attack the vessel informed a nearby coalition task force warship and, as instructed, engaged in evasive maneuvers.

“The incident occurred on 26 December 2023 at approximately 12:25 UTC while the MSC vessel was enroute from King Abdullah Port, Saudi Arabia to Karachi, Pakistan,” MSC said.

“Currently, all crew are safe with no reported injuries and a thorough assessment of the vessel is being conducted.

“Our first priority remains protecting the lives and safety of our seafarers, and until their safety can be ensured MSC will continue to reroute vessels booked for Suez transit via the Cape of Good Hope.”

The latest attack is being reported on the heels of the deployment of Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG), a multi-national security initiative established to respond to Houthi-led attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

The establishment of the operation has prompted industry majors the likes of Maersk, CMA CGM, and COSCO to partially resume transiting through the Red Sea both eastbound and westbound.

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“Some vessels have made the transit through the Red Sea. This decision is based on an in-depth evaluation of the security landscape and our commitment to the security and safety of our seafarers. We are currently devising plans for the gradual increase in the number of vessels transiting through the Suez Canal. We are monitoring the situation constantly and we stand ready to promptly reassess and adjust our plans as needed,” CMA CGM said in an update on December 26.

“Advanced security procedures are in place to ensure the safety of the crew and vessel, our number one priority in handling the challenging situation in the Red Sea area.”

Alphaliner estimates that around 15 vessels had continued or turned back to the Red Sea / Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Houthi forces targeted shipping lanes in the Red Sea with two anti-ship ballistic missiles and launched drone attacks on merchant tankers, according to an announcement by U.S. Central Command on Saturday.

The Gabon-owned MV Saibaba, an Indian-flagged crude tanker, was hit by a one-way drone attack, while the Norwegian-flagged MV Blaamanen reported a drone miss on the chemical tanker.

These incidents mark the 14th and 15th attacks on merchant traffic in the region since their initiation.

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG-58) responded to distress calls from both ships and also downed four unmanned aerial drones as part of OPG, according to U.S.Cengtral Command.