Houthis Claim New Barrage of Attacks Refuted by Maersk and Security Forces

Red Sea escort
EUNAVFOR Aspites reports normal escorts while the Houthi claimed a barrage of new attacks (Aspites)

Published Mar 26, 2024 2:50 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Houthi militants claimed a fresh barrage of attacks on commercial shipping both in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but it was refuted by the shipping lines cited and the security operations in the area. The statement said they had used a “large number of ballistic missiles and drones” during the past 72 hours while the UK Maritime Trade Organizations and others recorded no incidents and EUNAVFOR Aspides reported normal escort operations.

A spokesperson for the group, Yahya Saree, specifically cited four ships, the Maersk Saratoga, APL Detroit, Huang Pu, and the Pretty Lady as the target of their attacks. He called the first two vessels American, and the Huang Pu a British ship, while they alleged the Pretty Lady was heading toward an Israeli port. He also claimed that they had targeted two American “war destroyers,” and launched missiles toward the Israeli city of Eilat.

The problem with this is that only the Huang Pu reported an attack several days ago. Maersk specifically responded to questions from the media including Reuters denying the vessel was attacked or even in the area. The carrier is diverting most of its vessels saying last week that it felt the security issues were still too unstable while recognizing the EU and American-led efforts. 

The Maersk Saratoga (28,844 dwt) however is a US-registered containership operated by the U.S. subsidiary Maersk Line Limited. A large share of cargoes of these ships are U.S. government-owned goods and equipment, including military cargoes. The vessel’s AIS signal showed it had been in Djibouti departing three days ago on March 23. 

MLL vessels had also been targeted by the rebels in late January. At the time, the line reported it would be suspending operations in the danger zone due to concerns for the safety of its crew.

The APL Detroit (115,000 dwt) is registered in Singapore and although branded for APL (American President Lines) is operated by CMA CGM. The vessel’s AIS signal shows it transited the Red Sea between March 20 and 22 and made calls in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and since March 24 has been in Suez due to transit the Suez Canal today or tomorrow. CMA CGM said it was selectively sending vessels through the Red Sea on an individual basis and has been using French warship escorts.

The Pretty Lady (50,000 dwt) is a Malta-registered bulk carrier coming from India. It was due at the Suez Canal yesterday. The Equasis database shows the vessel has been managed out of Greece for more than a decade.

Databases show the Huang Pu (115,500 dwt) registered in Panama sailing from Russia and through the Suez Canal last week. The vessel’s AIS message shows “Chinese Owner Crew” but the vessel reported a series of missiles. The fifth caused a small fire but the vessel reported it was proceeding and did not require assistance.

The U.S. Central Command has not reported any incidents in the past few days since the Huang Pu. On March 23, they said U.S. forces, including USS Carney, engaged six Houthi unmanned aerial vehicles over the southern Red Sea. The U.S. asserted that five crashed into the Red Sea, and one flew inland into Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

EUNAVFOR Aspides reported normal daily operations providing security escorts through the region. They posted photos showing the Italian and German warships providing escorts including for a Grimaldi conro and a tanker. They reported no interactions with the Houthi.