After a string of claimed but unconfirmed attacks on various vessels lately, Yemen’s Houthi rebels actually hit two ships in the Gulf of Aden over the weekend.

The vessels are managed by MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co and Germany’s Reederei Lauterjung.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) was the first authority to report the two separate incidents, in which “unknown projectiles” impacted the 5,700-dwt multipurpose vessel Norderney (built 2012) and the 5,900-teu container ship MSC Tavvishi (built 2000).

Both were said to be proceeding to their next port of call after suffering fires on board that caused no human casualties.

A first strike against the Norderney took place at 20:00 GMT on Saturday about 80 nautical miles (150 kilometres) south-east of Aden.

“The Master reports that the vessel was hit by an unknown projectile, a small fire was contained in the mooring station and now reported extinguished,” UKTMO said.

“All crew are reported safe and the vessel is now proceeding to its next port of call.”

Ambrey Analytics said the Antigua & Barbuda-flagged Norderney was heading south-west along the Gulf of Aden at 8.2 knots when the forward station was struck by a missile. A second missile was sighted but did not hit the ship.

“Persons on board small boats in the vicinity opened fire on the ship during the incident. She changed direction to port and increased speed to 10.5 knots,” Ambrey said.

This, however, were not the end of the Norderney’s troubles. A Houthi missile hit it again at 14:30 GMT on Sunday, as it was sailing 89 miles south-west of Aden.

“The company’s CSO [chief security officer] reports that the vessel has no casualties and is continuing to proceed to its next port of call,” UKMTO said.

The Houthis confirmed having carried out an operation against the Norderney. Managers at the ship’s German manager, Reederei Lauterjung, did not respond to a request for comment.

MSC vessel hit in the aft

The incident against the second vessel, the MSC Tavvishi, occurred at 23:39 GMT on Saturday, 70 miles south-west of Aden.

“The Master reports that the vessel was hit by an unknown projectile on the aft section, which resulted in a fire,” UKMTO said.

“Damage control is underway, the Master reports no casualties and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call.”

Vessel tracker data initially suggested that the ship in question could be the 6,750-teu MSC Florentina (built 2003) — a vessel managed by MSC, which has already seen several of its ships attacked by the Houthis.

An official with the rebel group, however, revealed on Sunday that it was the MSC Tavvishi that received a direct hit instead.

MSC did not respond to a request for comment.

Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said the MSC Tavvishi and the Norderney “belonged to companies that violated the [Houthi] decision to ban access to the ports of occupied Palestine [Israel]”.

A third vessel mentioned by Saree as a Houthi missile target during the weekend was not a merchant ship but a military one — the British Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond.

The UK defence ministry, however, has not yet made any statement that would confirm a strike on the destroyer.

Bloody trail

The Houthis have already launched more than 100 confirmed strikes against commercial ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden over the past six months, in an attempt to disrupt trade with Israel and target the ships of its Western allies, to pressure Israel to end its war in Gaza.

Carried out via drones, missiles, attempted boardings and one hijacking, the strikes have resulted in the death of three seafarers and 10 Houthi fighters, the sinking of the 32,200-dwt bulker Rubymar (built 1997) and the abduction of 25 crew members on the 5,100-ceu Galaxy Leader (built 2002).

Advisory and broking company WTW said this week that attacks are highly likely to continue over the next six months as the Houthis have sufficient stockpiles of weaponry, despite US airstrikes on its positions within Yemen that have caused dozens of deaths.