Yemen’s Houthis say ship attacked in Gulf of Aden may sink

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Yemen’s Houthis say ship attacked in Gulf of Aden may sink

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - The Iran-aligned Houthis have made repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Feb 20 — Yemen’s Houthi militants said yesterday they had attacked the Rubymar cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden which was at risk of sinking, raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have made repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait. US and British forces have responded with multiple strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement that the Rubymar’s crew was safe but that the ship was badly damaged and at risk of sinking. The Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-managed vessel was attacked on Sunday.

The Houthis had also shot down a US drone over the Yemeni port Hodeidah, Sarea added.

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The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen and targeted the Rubymar on February 18.

“One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage. The ship issued a distress call and a coalition warship along with another merchant vessel responded to the call to assist the crew of the Rubymar,” CENTCOM said on X.

Security firm LSS-SAPU, in charge of safety on the Rubymar, said earlier the crew evacuated after two missiles hit. They were picked up by another commercial ship which took them to Djibouti.

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“We know she was taking in water,” LSS-SAPU told Reuters in comments by phone. “There is nobody on board now ... The owners and managers are considering options for towage.”

So far, no ships have been sunk nor crew killed from the attacks in a sea lane accounting for about 12 per cent of global maritime traffic. Some companies have chosen to go the longer and more expensive route via the southern tip of Africa.

Despite Western attacks on them in Yemen, the Houthis have vowed to continue targeting ships linked to Israel until attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip stop.

Shipping industry associations yesterday called for the release of the 25 crew members of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship hijacked by the Houthis three months ago on November 19. — Reuters pic

Shipping industry associations yesterday called for the release of the 25 crew members of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship hijacked by the Houthis three months ago on November 19. — Reuters pic

Greek-flagged ship hit

In a second incident within hours, the Greece-flagged, US-owned bulk carrier Sea Champion with 23 crew members was attacked twice yesterday by missiles, with a window damaged but no injuries to personnel, Greek shipping ministry sources said.

The vessel was taking grain from Argentina to Aden.

Seafarers in the firing line have signed industry wide agreements giving them rights to refuse to sail on ships passing through the Red Sea and to receive double pay when entering high-risk zones.

Shipping industry associations yesterday called for the release of the 25 crew members of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship hijacked by the Houthis three months ago on November 19.

“The 25 seafarers who make up the crew of the Galaxy Leader are innocent victims of the ongoing aggression against world shipping,” the associations said. “It is abhorrent that seafarers were seized by military forces and that they have been kept from their families and loved ones for too long.”

The CEO of QatarEnergy, the world’s second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) which has stopped sailing via the Red Sea, said the disruption was delaying deliveries.

Container shipping, which transports consumer goods, is also starting to feel the impact from re-routing ships. S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a report on Friday that the apparel industry was now expecting higher costs and delays.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s most populous regions, have targeted vessels with commercial ties to the United States, Britain and Israel, shipping and insurance sources say.

War risk insurance premiums have crept higher and are now around 1 per cent of the value of the vessels, excluding discounts that are applied, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional costs per voyage, insurance sources said.

“Shipping companies must weigh up the increased costs and journey times against the risk to their vessels, and, most importantly, the safety of the crew onboard,” insurance broker Gallagher Speciality Marine said in a report last week.

The European Union on Monday launched a naval mission to the Red Sea “to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation” there, a move welcomed by the World Shipping Council.

“The security situation around the Red Sea continues to be dire, with vessels attempting to transit being fired upon with missiles and drones as well as suffering attacks from armed fighters on the water,” the WSC said. — Reuters

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