NEW DELHI, Dec 24: A Gabon-flagged crude oil tanker merchant vessel Sai Baba with Indian crew heading to India was attacked by a one-way drone in the Southern Red Sea, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). No injuries was reported in the attack and the vessel was on its way to its destination, the report said.
“At approximately 8 p.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Naval Forces Central Command received reports from two ships in the Southern Red Sea that they were under attack,” CENTCOM said on social media platform X. The USS Laboon responded to the distress calls from these attacks, it stated.
These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17. The other vessel is merchant vessel BLAAMANEN, a Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker, reported a near miss of a Houthi one-way attack drone with no injuries or damage reported.
The vessel is a Gabon flagged vessel and the classification society for registration is through the Indian Registrar of Shipping, defence sources said. The tanker is managed by an Indian Company and has an all Indian crew, it has been learnt. “The company manager confirmed the attack was unsuccessful and vessel was not hit. All crew are safe and the vessel is heading towards India,” sources in the know stated.
Also on Saturday, two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen, CENTCOM said adding no ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles. Between 3 and 8 p.m. (Sanaa time), the USS Laboon was patrolling in the Southern Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) and shot down four unmanned aerial drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen that were inbound to the USS Laboon, it added.
These attacks represent a significant scale up in attacks on commercial shipping from Houthi held areas of Yemen. On Saturday morning, Liberian-flagged merchant vessel Chem Pluto was hit by a suspected drone just outside the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is now heading to Mumbai escorted by Indian Coast Guard ship Vikram. Chem Pluto operated by a Dutch company has a 21-member crew, 20 Indians and one Vietnamese, was located around 217 nautical miles from the Porbandar coast in the Arabian Sea when it was hit.
In response to escalation in missile and drone attacks originating from Houthi held areas in Yemen which threatens the free flow of commerce in the Red Sea, on December 18, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin announced the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an “important new multinational security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea.”