A Spanish navy frigate from the European Union’s Operation ATALANTA is heading towards the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen, which is believed to have been hijacked by pirates near Somalia. The crew has lost control of the vessel, but they are confirmed to be safe. The responding Spanish frigate, Victoria, armed with advanced weaponry, is quickly approaching the area to assess and respond to the situation. This incident, if verified as a pirate hijacking, would be the first major act of piracy since 2019.
Operation ATALANTA, the EU’s naval mission, has played a crucial role in reducing piracy and safeguarding maritime routes and humanitarian missions. It has resulted in the apprehension of 171 pirates. However, this incident highlights the ongoing challenges in ensuring maritime safety in the region, with the MV Ruen now heading towards Somalia.
The southern Red Sea is witnessing a resurgence of violence similar to the Somali piracy crisis from a decade ago. In response to this volatile situation, the US is reportedly preparing to establish a special multinational task force in the Red Sea to support merchant shipping.
In another incident, the Hapag-Lloyd containership, Al Jasrah, was hit by an aerial projectile while passing through the Bab Al Mandab Strait. The vessel sustained damage and a container fell overboard, causing a deck fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries among the crew. This attack follows a close encounter involving the MSC Alanya near Yemeni waters, where evasive maneuvers were necessary. The Maersk Gibraltar also narrowly evaded a missile attack while passing near Yemen. These series of attacks, carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthis, have increased in frequency, targeting various merchant ships.
The Houthis have connected their maritime campaign to the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. They have expressed their commitment to disrupt ships heading to Israeli ports in the Red Sea until essential supplies reach Gaza. The Houthi military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, claimed responsibility for the attacks on the MSC Palatium III and Alanya, although Al Jasrah was the intended target. These incidents raise concerns about regional maritime security and impact critical shipping routes between Europe and Asia.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, global shipping faces escalating threats. In a notable incident in November, the Houthis seized an Israel-linked vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea near Yemen. An Israeli billionaire’s container ship also experienced a suspected Iranian drone attack in the Indian Ocean. The situation highlights the need for heightened vigilance and security measures in the maritime domain.