February 23, 2024

Recent maritime security incidents in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, involving the attempted hijacking of the M/V Central Park and the drone attack on the CMA CGM Symi, respectively, reflect a complex and evolving security landscape in these regions.

That’s what Dryad Global stated in its latest Maritime Security Threat Advisory (MSTA), which was released this week, adding that these events are part of a broader pattern of increased targeting of Israeli interests, “often seen as a proxy for Iranian involvement in regional conflicts”.

“The Houthis in Yemen, supported by Iran, have increased their targeting of Israeli interests. The use of proxy forces like the Houthis allows Iran to extend its influence and engage in asymmetric warfare, complicating attribution and response strategies,” Dryad noted in the MSTA.

“The missile launches near USS Mason, while responding to the distress call from the Israeli-linked M/V Central Park, underscore this trend. Though the Houthis’ primary focus is the Yemeni conflict, their actions increasingly intersect with wider regional tensions, particularly those involving Iran and Israel,” it added.

“Israeli-flagged and Israeli-connected vessels face a heightened risk in these waters. The targeting of the CMA CGM Symi, an Israeli-owned vessel, by a suspected Iranian drone, highlights the direct threats these vessels encounter,” the MSTA continued.

“These attacks are not just isolated incidents but part of a larger pattern of hostility towards Israeli interests in these strategic maritime zones. The use of advanced weaponry like suicide drones indicates a significant escalation in the methods used to target these vessels,” it went on to state.

The MSTA also noted that, beyond the immediate risks to Israeli-linked ships, there exists a residual risk, “which includes indirect targeting and misidentification”.

“The incident involving the MV Tyndall in 2021/2022 serves as a pertinent example. Although the MV Tyndall had no active links to Israel at the time, it was targeted, demonstrating the challenges in accurately identifying and targeting vessels based on their national affiliations or ownership,” the MSTA stated.

“This misidentification risk underscores the broader vulnerabilities faced by maritime assets in these conflict-prone waters, where assumptions about a vessel’s links or past ownership can lead to unwarranted attack,” it added.

In its latest MSTA, Dryad noted that the maritime incidents involving the M/V Central Park and the CMA CGM Symi, along with the historical precedent of the MV Tyndall, illustrate the multifaceted and dynamic security threats in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

“While Israeli-linked vessels face direct threats, the risk extends to a wider range of vessels due to the potential for misidentification and indirect targeting,” Dryad said in the MSTA.

“The situation necessitates heightened vigilance and robust security measures for maritime assets operating in these regions,” it warned.

M/V Central Park Distress Call

A release posted on U.S. Central Command’s (Centcom) website last week highlighted that, on November 26, the USS Mason responded to a distress call from the M/V Central Park “that they were under attack by an unknown entity”.

“Upon arrival, coalition elements demanded release of the vessel. Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat,” Centcom stated in the release.

“The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender. The crew of the M/V Central Park is currently safe,” it added.

“At approximately 01.41 on November 27 Sanaa time, at least one ballistic missile was fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the USS Mason and M/V Central Park. The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles from the ships,” it continued.

“The USS Mason, which is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was concluding its response to the M/V Central Park distress call at the time of the missile launches. There was no damage or reported injuries from either vessel during this incident,” it went on to state.

In the release, Centcom Commander Michael Erik Kurilla said, “maritime domain security is essential to regional stability”.

“We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes,” he added.

In a separate release posted on its site on November 4, Centcom announced that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group arrived in the “Middle East and Centcom area of responsibility as part of the increase in regional posture”.

“The strike group is commanded by Carrier Strike Group 2 and comprised of flagship aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Mason and USS Gravely of Destroyer Squadron 22, Carrier Air Wing 3 with its nine squadrons, and the Information Warfare Commander,” Centcom noted in that release.

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com

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