12:05 a.m. ET, January 1, 2024
Maersk says all crew members are safe after Houthi boats attacked a commercial ship in the Red Sea
By CNN's Jesse Young and Julianna Liu
Maersk Shipping Company confirmed in a statement on Monday that its commercial ship, Maersk Hangzhou, was attacked on Saturday, resulting in US helicopters responding to distress calls and sinking three Houthi boats, killing those on board.
The US military said that US helicopters sank the three Houthi boats in the Red Sea after coming under fire.
The sinkings marked the first time since tensions erupted earlier in 2023 that the United States had killed members of the The Iran-backed Houthi rebel groupWhich targeted commercial and commercial ships in the Red Sea.
The company said in a statement that the accident occurred while the ship Maersk Hangzhou was passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait on its way from Singapore to the Port of Suez.
The company said that the ship was initially hit by an unknown object, but was able to continue moving as there was no fire on board. Four boats then approached the ship and “engaged in flames in an expected attempt to board the ship,” Maersk said.
The statement said: “A helicopter was deployed from a nearby naval ship, and in cooperation with the ship’s security team, the attempt to board the ship was successfully repelled.”
She added that the crew of the Maersk Hangzhou ship is safe, and that the company is assessing the security of the region through Operation Prosperity Guardian – a multinational maritime alliance created to increase security in the vital global shipping lane.
What the United States said: the US Central Command said that helicopters from the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and the destroyer USS Gravely responded to the distress call launched by the ship Maersk Hangzhou, the second in less than 24 hours, and were fired upon by Houthi boats.
“US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crew members. The statement added that the fourth boat fled the area, adding that there was no damage to American personnel or equipment.
The United States avoided directly striking the group inside Yemen as part of its effort to avoid further escalation of the crisis. But a National Security Council spokesman said Sunday that the United States would continue to act in self-defense.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”