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Report: MSC Boxship Catches Fire After Houthi Missile Strike

Houthi missiles

Published Mar 4, 2024 11:57 AM by The Maritime Executive

[Updated] Yemen's Houthi rebels have hit another merchant ship and sparked a fire with a missile strike in the Gulf of Aden, according to two UK security consultancies. 

Ambrey and Vanguard Tech both report that the sub-Panamax boxship MSC Sky II has been hit by a missile and has caught fire.

The master of MSC Sky II reports that the attack involved two missiles: the first went into the water off the vessel's port quarter, and the second reportedly struck the ship's accommodations block. No injuries were reported, but the impact started a fire, and the crew were engaged in firefighting as of Monday afternoon. 

In an update late in the day, U.S. Central Command reported that the MSC Sky did not request assistance and continued on its voyage. 

MSC is owned and operated by the Aponte family out of its headquarters in Switzerland. However, one of the firm's top shareholders was born in what is now the state of Israel. Some analysts suggest that Yemen's Houthi rebels have identified this connection and are targeting MSC vessels because of the affiliation: the Houthis assert that their campaign against shipping in the Red Sea is aimed at disrupting Israeli commerce and applying political pressure to halt Israel's operation in Gaza. 

MSC vessels have been targeted multiple times since the beginning of Houthi hostilities last fall. Houthi militants attacked MSC Palatium III with a ballistic missile in mid-December; MSC United VIII was attacked in the Red Sea about 10 days later; and MSC Silver II was targeted last month. None of these previous attacks were successful, though the Houthis have caused considerable harm to other owners' vessels. 

MSC had previously indicated that it would suspend Red Sea operations due to the security risk.