Turbulence in Red Sea Maritime Security: Recent Attacks Prompt Shipping Giants to Reroute

International shipping companies, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, alter course amid escalating threats, while naval forces respond to fresh incidents.

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In spite of persistent ultimatums from the international community demanding an end to attacks against merchant ships in the Red Sea region, two new incidents were reported on Saturday, January 6. Coalition forces promptly intervened in both instances, preventing harm to any merchant vessels. However, the ongoing threat continues to cast a shadow over maritime operations in the area.

The two incidents today appeared unrelated but underscored the sustained efforts of the Houthis, who claim to be supporting Hamas and the Palestinians. A Hamas spokesperson announced on Friday that a sizable rally in Sabeen Square in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, witnessed substantial participation, marking the largest turnout since the commencement of the conflict with Hamas.

This morning, an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen was detected by the U.S. destroyer USS Laboon. CENTCOM reported multiple commercial vessels in the vicinity in the southern Red Sea. The USS Laboon, in an act of self-defense, successfully neutralized the drone with no reported casualties or damage.

Simultaneously, an unidentified merchant vessel reported to the UK Maritime Trade Organizations that it was approached by six small crafts approximately 50 nautical miles southeast of Mocha, Yemen. Although the small crafts came within one nautical mile of the merchant vessel, no weapons were observed. Coalition forces intervened, and the six small vessels withdrew from the area. UKMTO confirmed the safety of the vessel and its crew, who continued their voyage without incident.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy is actively supporting the bulker Lila Norfolk, which was boarded by pirates in the Arabian Sea. The Navy believes the pirates were deterred by warnings, and an elite team from the Indian Navy conducted a comprehensive sweep of the bulker, finding no pirates onboard. The crew is reported to be safe, and efforts are underway to restore propulsion, power supply, and steering gear.

As the attacks persist, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have decided to defer transits of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Maersk is rerouting all containerships around Africa after facing attacks, while Hapag-Lloyd continues to monitor the situation closely, diverting vessels and convening a crisis committee to assess security in the Red Sea area. Currently, the majority of containerships are opting to circumnavigate the southern tip of Africa, with an estimated 95 percent diversion rate, according to Ryan Petersen, the founder and CEO of Flexport.

(Combined Maritime Force photo)

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