Houthi Missile Damages MSC Containership in Gulf of Aden

Militants Continue Attacks That Began in November
MSC ship
The MSC Marianna containership at the Port of Felixstowe Ltd. in Felixstowe, U.K. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

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Houthi militants attacked and damaged a Swiss-owned container vessel on March 4 in the Gulf of Aden, as the Iran-backed group continues to roil shipping in the region.

The MSC Sky II, managed by MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., was about 90 miles southeast of the Yemeni city of Aden when a blast occurred. The Houthis fired two missiles, one of which hit the ship, according to the U.S. military.

“Initial reports indicate there were no injuries,” U.S. Central Command said on X. “The ship did not request assistance and continued on its way.”

MSC confirmed in a statement that the ship was attacked on March 4 while sailing near the Bab el-Mandeb strait toward Djibouti from Singapore.

“The missile caused a small fire that has been extinguished while no crew were injured,” it said. “She is currently continuing her journey to Djibouti and will arrive today for further assessment.”

The Houthis claimed the attack.

MSC ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest global freight companies.

Ship in Suez Canal

A ship transits the Suez Canal toward the Red Sea in January. (Sayed Hassan/Getty Images via Bloomberg)

Earlier, security company Ambrey Analytics said the explosion damaged an accommodation block as well as one other part of the ship.

The Houthis have been attacking merchant and military ships in and around the southern Red Sea since mid-November, ostensibly in support of Hamas as it wages war against Israel in Gaza. The group has said it won’t back down from hitting vessels until Israel stops fighting.

The Houthis have withstood several rounds of airstrikes on their positions in Yemen from U.S. and U.K. forces. The shipping assaults have caused thousands of miles worth of diversions for merchant vessels — forcing them to sail around southern Africa instead of through the Red Sea and Suez Canal — and sent freight rates soaring.

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Many oil companies have also diverted their cargoes. In a note to clients on March 4, Goldman Sachs Group Ltd. said that nearly half the respondents in a recent survey it did “do not expect normalization of the flows this year.”

Over the weekend, another merchant ship called the Rubymar sank about two weeks after being hit by a Houthi missile. It marked the first vessel the Houthis have sunk, and highlighted the environmental risks that the incidents pose.

The militants are still holding a Japanese-chartered car carrier called the Galaxy Leader that was hijacked in November.

The U.S. military reported two other incidents on March 4. It said the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that landed in the Red Sea without damaging any vessels. Later on, American forces struck two antiship cruise missiles that “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.”

— By Alex Longley, Mohammed Hatem and Louise Moon