Maersk pauses Red Sea sailings after Houthi attack on Singapore-flagged container ship

DUBAI: Iranian-backed Houthi militants attacked a Maersk container vessel, prompting the company to pause all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours, Maersk said on Sunday (Dec 31).

The attack was the latest by Houthi militants in Yemen, who have been targeting vessels in The Red Sea to show their support for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas fighting Israel in Gaza.

US Navy helicopters sank three of four small boats used by the militants to attack the Maersk Hangzhou vessel in the southern Red Sea late on Saturday, the US military said.

The crew onboard the Maersk ship reported a flash on deck on Dec 30 at around 1830 CET, when the vessel was 55 nautical miles southwest of Al Hodeidah, Maersk said.

Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely, responding to distress calls from Maersk Hangzhou, returned fire on the Houthi boats in self-defence and sank three of the vessels, with no survivors, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The fourth boat fled the area, said the statement on social media platform X.

The Maersk Hangzhou crew was safe and there was no indication of fire onboard the vessel that was fully manoeuvrable and continued its journey north to Port Suez, Maersk said.

The Singapore-flagged vessel with capacity to carry 14,000 containers was en route from Singapore.

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