A tanker in the southern Red Sea was fired on by gunmen in a speedboat and targeted with missiles, the latest incident to threaten the shipping lane after Yemeni Houthi forces warned ships not to travel to Israel.
U.S. Central Command reported on Thursday that the guided-missile destroyer Mason responded to a mayday call from the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker motor vessel Ardmore Encounter, which was under attack from Houthi forces.
It is said to had been launched from the Houthi-controlled area in Yemen.
These forces first attempted to board the tanker via skiffs.
When this was unsuccessful, a pair of missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at the vessel, which both missed.
While responding to the distress call, the Mason shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle also launched from Houthi-controlled areas. The UAV was heading directly towards the Mason and was shot down in self-defense.
As it is reported, there were no injuries to personnel and no damage to any vessels, whilst the tanker Ardmore Encounter was able to proceed without further incident.
British maritime security company Ambrey said on December 13 an Israel-affiliated tanker came under attack Houthis offshore Hodeida, Yemen. Initially, the vessel was approached by a single skiff and fired upon.
A private armed security team aboard repelled the attack. Shortly after, the “Yemeni Navy” demanded via VHF that the tanker head for Hodeida. The tanker was threatened with an attack if it did not adhere to the demand.
Later, the vessel reported an explosion 200 metres from her stern, upon which the US Navy advised to turn off AIS and to increase distance to Yemeni territorial waters at max speed.
Simultaneously, the US Navy stated to be closing in on the tanker. Additionally, two missiles were launched toward the merchant vessel.
“No damage was sustained, and the crew remained unharmed. Idan Ofer, an Israeli businessman, held a minority share with the vessel’s group owner. This incident highlights the reduced availability of legitimate targets for the Houthis and an increased threat picture, now including small boat assaults,” Ambrey said.
Separately, Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported that five or six small boats, with machine guns mounted on their bows, followed a ship for about 90 minutes. They later left, it said.
The UKMTO advised ships to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.