Houthi Attacks Damage Tanker in Red Sea

Escalating Maritime Tensions Continue as Vessels Targeted for Third Consecutive Day

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In a continuation of recent hostilities, a tanker navigating the waters of the Red Sea fell victim to two separate attacks orchestrated by Houthi forces yesterday, marking the third consecutive day of assaults following a temporary hiatus lasting nearly two weeks. The targeted vessel, identified as the Andromeda Star, operating within the so-called shadow fleet, sustained minor damage as a result of the second attack, while another vessel, the Maisha, managed to evade direct impact, albeit experiencing the shockwaves of the initial missile detonation.

Reports from the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed the targeting of both vessels, shedding light on the intensified confrontations in the region. The Andromeda Star, registered under the Panama flag, was among the primary targets, with the assailants seemingly employing a two-pronged assault strategy during the second attack. Fortunately, no casualties were reported among the crew, and the vessel proceeded with its journey towards India, as per CENTCOM sources.

The incident unfolded approximately 14 nautical miles southwest of Al Mukha, Yemen, as verified by the UK Maritime Trade Organizations’ monitoring efforts. The geographical proximity to the northern extents of the Bab el-Mandeb strait underscores the strategic significance of the area, amplifying concerns over maritime security and safe passage through vital international shipping lanes.

Ownership and management intricacies surrounding the targeted vessels add layers of complexity to the situation. Ambiguity shrouds the ownership status of both the Andromeda Star and the Maisha, with conflicting reports highlighting jurisdictional transitions and changes in operational oversight. The latest assertions from British security consultants Ambrey suggest a recent shift in ownership of the Andromeda Star to entities registered in the Seychelles, complicating the attribution of responsibility and accountability in the aftermath of the attacks.

A statement issued by a Houthi spokesperson claimed sole responsibility for the assault on the Andromeda Star, characterizing it as a “British oil ship” in alignment with their narrative. However, discrepancies emerged regarding the vessel’s recent history, with Bloomberg’s investigative reporting revealing potential discrepancies in insurance documentation, further clouding the vessel’s legal status and operational legitimacy.

The escalation of hostilities extends beyond maritime engagements, with the Houthi forces purportedly downing an American MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle in Yemeni airspace. While CENTCOM refrained from acknowledging the loss, media reports corroborate the incident, marking the third such occurrence since the onset of hostilities in November 2023.

Yesterday’s assault forms part of a broader resurgence in Houthi targeting of merchant vessels, with recent attacks targeting prominent shipping conglomerates such as MSC and Maersk. International responses, including military interventions by the EU and the UK’s Royal Navy, underscore the gravity of the situation, as maritime stakeholders navigate heightened security risks and geopolitical tensions in the volatile waters of the Red Sea.

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