The recent attacks in the southern Red Sea, acknowledged by the Houthi rebels, notably against the M/V Unity Explorer and the M/V Number 9, and the M/V Sophie II, highlight a significant escalation in maritime conflicts, Dryad Global stated in its latest Maritime Security Threat Advisory (MSTA).
“These attacks, carried out with advanced weaponry like ballistic missiles and UAVs, signify a strategic shift from random piracy to politically motivated aggression,” Dryad noted in the MSTA.
“The USS Carney, a U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer, played a vital role in counteracting these threats. Its involvement in shooting down UAVs and safeguarding commercial vessels underscores the growing need for naval protection in such high-risk areas,” the company added.
“The Houthi rebels’ admission of these attacks complicates the regional geopolitical scenario, indicating their advanced military capabilities and readiness for maritime confrontations acting as a proxy for Iranian forces,” it went on to state.
Given this escalated threat, specific safety measures for vessels are recommended, Dryad said in the MSTA.
“Importantly, all vessels with no connections to Israel should ensure they remain visible on AIS (Automatic Identification System) during their transit in the Red Sea,” the company stated in the advisory.
“This measure is crucial to avoid misidentification or unintentional targeting in these complex and tense maritime environments,” it added.
“Additionally, adhering to Best Management Practices version 5 (BMP-5) is advised for all vessels. This includes maintaining heightened vigilance, conducting regular risk assessments, and being prepared for a rapid response to any emerging threats,” it continued.
M/V Central Park
In its latest MSTA, Dryad also noted that the recent incident involving the commercial vessel M/V Central Park, which it highlighted is linked to an Israeli businessman and sailing under a Liberian flag, “was likely conducted by Somali pirates, according to the Pentagon”.
“The USS Mason responded to the distress call from the Central Park and captured five individuals attempting to flee to Yemen after boarding the merchant tanker. These individuals were believed to be Somali,” Dryad said in the MSTA.
“Somali pirates have been known to exploit situations like high tensions in the Middle East. However, the involvement of missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen shortly after the USS Mason boarded the Central Park to assist is considered unusual and unprecedented,” it added.
“This raises questions about the coordination of the attack and whether the Somali pirate attack was instigated and funded by an outside source,” it went on to state.
“While direct evidence of Iran sponsoring Somali piracy to harass Israeli vessels in the Red Sea, specifically in the case of the Central Park, is not conclusively established, the circumstances and patterns of recent incidents suggest a complex and potentially coordinated nature of these maritime attacks,” Dryad continued.
M/V Unity Explorer
On December 3, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) revealed in a statement posted on its site that four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea had taken place.
“These three vessels are connected to 14 separate nations,” Centcom noted in the statement, adding that the “Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer USS Carney responded to the distress calls from the ships and provided assistance”.
“At approximately 9.15 am Sanaa time, the Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile attack fired from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen toward the M/V Unity Explorer, impacting in the vicinity of the vessel,” Centcom said in the statement.
“Unity Explorer is a Bahamas flagged, U.K. owned and operated, bulk cargo ship crewed by sailors from two nations. The Carney was conducting a patrol in the Red Sea and detected the attack on the Unity Explorer,” it added.
“At approximately 12 pm, and while in international waters, Carney engaged and shot down a UAV launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen. The drone was headed toward Carney although its specific target is not clear,” it continued.
“We cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target of the UAVs. There was no damage to the U.S. vessel or injuries to personnel,” Centcom stated.
In a separate attack at approximately 12.35 pm, Unity Explorer reported they were struck by a missile fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen, Centcom noted in the statement.
“Carney responded to the distress call. While assisting with the damage assessment, Carney detected another inbound UAV, destroying the drone with no damage or injuries on the Carney or Unity Explorer. Unity Explorer reports minor damage from the missile strike,” it added.
M/V Number 9, M/V Sophie II
Centcom said in its statement that, at approximately 3.30 pm, the M/V Number 9 was struck by a missile fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen while operating international shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
“The Panamanian flagged, Bermuda and U.K. owned and operated, bulk carrier reported damage and no casualties,” Centcom highlighted.
At approximately 4.30 pm, the M/V Sophie II sent a distress call stating they were struck by a missile, Centcom noted in its statement.
“Carney again responded to the distress call and reported no significant damage. While en-route to render support, Carney shot down a UAV headed in its direction. Sophie II is a Panamanian flagged bulk carrier, crewed by sailors from eight countries,” it added.
In its statement, Centcom said these attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.
“They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” it added.
“We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran,” it continued.
“The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” Centcom went on to state.
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