Cargo ship incidents off Yemen raise concerns for maritime security

Two cargo ships were hit by projectiles and caught fire off Yemen’s Aden, according to reports from UK maritime agencies, raising concerns about maritime security in the region.

The British security firm Ambrey reported that an Antigua and Barbuda-flagged general cargo ship was struck by a missile 83 nautical miles southeast of Aden and subsequently caught fire. The fire was contained, but another missile was sighted during the incident. Additionally, persons on small boats in the vicinity opened fire on the ship. No injuries were reported, and the ship changed course to port.

In a separate incident, another vessel was hit by an unknown projectile on its aft section, resulting in a fire. Damage control measures were initiated, and the vessel proceeded to its next port of call without casualties.

Suspicion for the attacks immediately fell on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been carrying out attacks on ships off the Yemeni coast for months. The Houthis, controlling populous parts of Yemen, claim solidarity with Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has escalated tensions in the region.

These attacks disrupt maritime traffic in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden, forcing ships to take longer and costlier routes around southern Africa. The United States and Britain have conducted strikes against Houthi targets in response to these attacks.

According to the US Maritime Administration, there have been more than 50 attacks on shipping since November, resulting in casualties and the seizure of vessels. The Houthis, while facing international scrutiny, have also intensified crackdowns on dissent within Yemen, detaining aid workers and sentencing individuals to death.

As maritime incidents escalate, international efforts are underway to ensure the security of shipping lanes in the region and address the root causes of the conflict in Yemen.