Escalating Threats: Houthi Militants Target Commercial Ships in Red Sea
In a concerning development, an Indian-flagged crude oil tanker in the Red Sea fell victim to an attack drone launched by Houthi militants, as reported by the US military on Saturday. The Gabon-owned MV Saibaba, targeted in the attack, fortunately reported no injuries, according to Central Command’s statement on X.
The incident unfolded around 8 pm (Sanaa time) when the US military received distressing reports of two ships in the Southern Red Sea being subjected to attacks. The M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged chemical/oil tanker, narrowly escaped a Houthi attack drone, resulting in no injuries or damage. The second vessel, M/V Saibaba, an Indian-flagged crude oil tanker owned by Gabon, wasn’t as fortunate and suffered a hit from a one-way attack drone. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries on board.
Sources close to the matter emphasized that the attack on the Saibaba was ultimately unsuccessful, clarifying that the vessel was not hit. The ship carried a crew of 25 Indians, all of whom are reported to be safe. Notably, these incidents mark the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17. This unsettling news comes on the heels of a drone attack on a Japanese-owned chemical tanker off the coast of India the previous day, an incident the Pentagon attributed to Iran, though Tehran vehemently denied any involvement.
The series of attacks coincide with a surge in drone and missile strikes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on the crucial Red Sea shipping lane. The Houthi group claims to be acting in solidarity with Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas conflict that began on October 7. In a previous incident last month, an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Indian Ocean was targeted in a suspected drone attack by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, causing damage to the vessel managed by an Israeli-affiliated company.
These attacks on commercial ships have had far-reaching consequences, prompting a rerouting of global trade away from this vital maritime artery that facilitates the movement of consumer goods and energy supplies. The Red Sea route, connecting Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, is crucial for the transport of oil, natural gas, grain, and various goods, including toys and electronics, en route to the Suez Canal.
In response to the escalating threats, some of the world’s largest container shipping companies and oil giant BP are opting for longer journeys that bypass the Red Sea. This shift in trade routes reflects the growing impact of the Houthi attacks on the stability and security of one of the world’s key maritime passages. As tensions continue to rise in the region, the international community faces the challenge of safeguarding vital trade routes while addressing the root causes of the escalating conflict involving Houthi militants.