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Missile fired at Maersk containership entering Red Sea

The projectile was launched from Houthi controlled territory in Yemen

The missile missed and the crew and vessel are safe

CONTAINERSHIP Maersk Gibraltar (IMO: 9739692)was fired upon while transiting the Bab el-Mandeb heading northbound for the Red Sea, making it the seventh direct attack against merchant shipping since Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement started making threats in mid-November.

The missile, which missed, was launched at the Hong Kong-flagged, 10,000 teu boxship from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen earlier today.

The vessel and crew are safe.

A spokesperson for Maersk the vessel’s third-party operator, said: “At this time, we are still working to establish the facts of the incident. The safety of our crew and vessel is our top priority and all possible security measures are being taken to ensure we remove them from harm’s way.”

Maersk Gibraltar was sailing from Salalah, Oman to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the time of the incident.

The ship has not transmitted an Automatic Identification System message since 1159 hrs GMT, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data. 

UK Maritime Trade Operations said in an advisory a vessel had reported being ordered to alter course to Yemen by an entity declaring itself to be the Yemeni Navy.

It later sent an alert based on reports of an explosion in the area of the Bab El-Mandeb.

The Houthis are actively targeting vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with ownership links to Israel as well as ships that deliver cargo to Israeli ports.

Maersk Gibraltar is beneficially owned by Greater China Intermodal investments and is managed by Seaspan Ship Management.

There are no apparent ownership links to Israel and Maersk Gibraltar is operating on and India-Eastern Mediterranean loop. The vessel has no scheduled calls to Israel and has not called there recently.

Maersk has continued its Israel operations throughout the conflict describing them as “stable”.

Last week Maersk announced an emergency risk surcharge for cargo discharge at Israel terminals to ensure operations continue amid heightened insurance costs.

The surcharge will apply to all bookings from January 8, 2024.

Maersk’s owned or operated boxships have made 150 calls to Israeli ports so far this year, including 11 in November and seven this month, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence callings data. 

On average, Maersk affiliated vessels account for approximately 8.7% of monthly containership calls to Israel. 

The attack on Maersk Gibraltar is the seventh direct attack against a merchant ship since the Houthis started issuing threats in mid-November.



Maersk said: “The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the Bad al-Mandab Strait are extremely concerning. The current situation puts seafarer lives at risk and is unsustainable for global trade. As it cannot be solved by the global shipping industry on its own, we call on political action to ensure a swift de-escalation.”

The US is looking to expand an existing naval taskforce to bolster Red Sea security and ensure freedom of navigation, according to reports.

No details have yet to be announced.

BIMCO maritime security head Jakob Larson told Lloyd’s List the shipping association was “extremely grateful” for the help of the US and French navies to ships in the past week.

Nevertheless, he said, “it’s quite clear that more military resources could certainly be very helpful to improve the situation”.

Larson said exactly how a bigger taskforce would work would depend on the warships available. These would either work by escorting ships in convoys, or by “area-style operations” with more ships and aircraft patrolling trouble spots, he suggested.

The Houthis seemed to be “relatively good” at finding ships they thought had links to Israel, but “it’s important to emphasise these ships are not Israeli as such”.

The ships being attacked represented seafarers, owners, cargo owners and other interests from many different countries.

“They are certainly part of the global shipping family, and therefore this is also a source of great concern,” Larson said.

He did not foresee a big change in trading patterns in the Red Sea except for Israeli-linked ships. He said higher war risk insurance costs would be passed to ships’ customers once insurers adjusted prices to the new risk level.

This market resilience could be seen in continued shipping in the Black Sea despite Russia’s war in Ukraine, Larson said. The real issue was the risk to seafarers being hurt or detained in the Middle East.

Freight rates could increase if ships pulled out of the local market, but that also meant an incentive for other ships to take their place. How many will do so will depend on owners’ appetite for risk, Larson said.

On Thursday, UKMTO separately reported a distress call by a ship boarded about 700 nm east of Bossasso, Somalia, and urged vessels to transit with caution.

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