Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Red Sea Crisis

Missile attack underlines continued threat to shipping in Red Sea

Photo: US NAVCENT Public Affairs US Navy Helicopter in the Arabian Gulf
Anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into the Red Sea on January 2, demonstrating the continued threat to merchant shipping despite an international naval presence.

US Central Command reported that two anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into the Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen at around 21:30 hrs local time. UKMTO has a report dated January 2 of up to three explosions between 1 and 5 nautical miles of a merchant vessel in the Bab el Mandeb strait which connects the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. 

“Multiple commercial ships in the area reported the impact of the ASBMs into the surrounding water though none have reported any damage. These illegal actions endangered the lives of dozens of innocent mariners and continue to disrupt the free flow of international commerce,” US Central Command said on Twitter.

The update noted this as the 24th attack on merchant shipping in the area since November 19, 2023. The UN Security Council is set to meet on January 3 at 15:00 hrs to address Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Anti-ship ballistic missiles have been used in previous attacks on ships in the Red Sea, including on the Maersk Hangzhou which was struck by a missile on December 30, but remained seaworthy with no reported injuries. Attempted hijackings by small boats and drone attacks have also been recorded.

A US-led international military response to the attacks on merchant shipping, Operation Prosperity Guardian, has been in place since December 18, but the latest attack highlights the difficulty of protecting the flow of vessels though the region. 

The presence of Operation Prosperity Guardian was a factor in Maersk’s decision to resume Red Sea transits in late December. The company has since paused all Red Sea transits indefinitely again after another of its ships was attacked twice within 24 hours on December 30 and 31.

Maersk has joined many other shipping companies in routing some of its vessels via the Cape of Good hope, adding thousands of nautical miles and significant extra sailing time to many routes.