Rare pictures released by the Indian Navy show the shocking extent of damage caused by a projectile that hit a Genco Shipping & Trading bulker attacked by a Houthi drone.

US-based Genco had already confirmed that its 55,300-dwt Genco Picardy (built 2005) was hit at about 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT) on Wednesday.

All seafarers on board the vessel, which is laden with a cargo of phosphate rock, are unharmed.

Authorities had said the attack was carried out with an unidentified, unmanned projectile. The Indian Navy’s message on Thursday, however, clarified that it was a drone.

The Indian warship INS Visakhapatnam responded to the Genco Picardy’s distress call and reached the stricken ship about two hours after the attack, to provide assistance.

The Genco Picardy’s crew of 22 include nine Indian citizens.

Explosive ordnance disposal specialists from the Visakhapatnam “thoroughly inspected and rendered safe” the damaged area before the ship continued its journey to the next port of call, the navy said.

«The Genco Picardy is the second US-owned vessel that the Houthis have attacked after American and British forces started bombing the Yemeni rebels last week, in response to their two-month-long campaign against commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Houthis’ stated purpose is to pressure Israel and its Western backers to ease the war against the Palestinian Hamas group in Gaza.

At about 11:59 pm local time, three-and-a-half hours after the Genco Picardy was attacked, US Central Command (Centcom) forces carried out retaliatory strikes against targets in Yemen, taking out 14 Houthi missiles that were “loaded to be fired”.

Indian navy helps stricken Genco vessel as US takes out Houthi missiles (Pics). Genco's 55,300-dwt bulker Genco Picardy (built 2005) after it was attacked by a Houthi drone in the Gulf of Aden on 17 January 2024. Photo: Indian Navy via X

“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting US forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves,” it said.

Centcom commander General Michael Erik Kurilla added in a statement on X: “We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people.”

The US can attack the Houthis more quickly after Washington labelled the group a terrorist organisation on Wednesday.

US forces already killed 10 Houthi fighters on 31 December who were trying to attack an AP Moller-Maersk container ship.

The US military has suffered losses as well: two Navy Seals went missing in a raid on a dhow on 11 January, in which Centcom said it intercepted and seized a load of Iranian-made missile components destined to reach the Houthis.