Houthi attack was first confirmed waterborne drone impact since November 2023, says risk intelligence specialist Ambrey


Impact by a Remote Controlled-Water Borne Improvised Explosive Device (RC-WBIED) began the deadly attack by the Houthis that damaged a merchant vessel causing a crew fatality, global maritime risk management specialist Ambrey reports in its latest Threat Circular (dynamic risk areas map pictured).

This was the first time the Houthis had successfully hit a merchant vessel with an RC-WBIED since they began targeting merchant shipping in November 2023, says Ambrey.

The hit caused the engine room of the single-hulled bulk carrier to flood and reportedly resulted in a crew fatality.

The Houthis have used RC-WBIEDs and purpose-built Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) for years but their primary modus operandi since November 2023 has been to use missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles against merchant shipping.

On the 12th of June, the Liberia-flagged bulk carrier was impacted by an RC-WBIED southwest of Hodeida, Yemen when she was transiting with AIS off and west of the main shipping lane. The vessel had last called Aqaba, Jordan, however, she had ceased AIS transmissions after exiting the Suez Canal southbound.

After the impact caused the engine room to flood, the vessel was subsequently declared “not under command” and “dead in the water”. Three hours thereafter, the vessel was targeted with a missile.

One crew member was reportedly killed following the attack, making this the second incident with crew fatality. At the time of writing, it was understood that the crew was abandoning the ship.

The RC-WBIED was described as a 5-7m long white-hulled boat ‘manned’ with two dummies. This description aligns with Yemeni fishing boats.

Ansar Allah (‘the Houthis’) have maintained an elevated level of operations since an Israel Defense Forces incursion into the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip appeared imminent. In the week leading up to this Threat Circular, the Houthi claimed six operations against merchant shipping. Four of those targeting attempts resulted in physical damage, marking a significant increase in effectiveness.

On the 3rd of May, the Houthis issued a ‘ban’ (internationally unrecognised) on companies conducting Israel port calls. All mentioned targeting operations were conducted against vessels whose companies had called Israel since the 3rd of May.