Yemen's Houthis claim attack on ship in Gulf of Aden, say it could sink

# 19 February 2024 15:16 (UTC +04:00)

Houthi militants in Yemen said on Monday they had attacked the Rubymar cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden and the vessel was now at risk of sinking - raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war, APA reports citing Reuters.

The crew are safe, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement. The Houthis had also shot down a U.S drone in the port city of Hodeidah, he said.

"The ship was seriously hit which caused it to stop completely. As a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered, it is now at risk of sinking in the Gulf of Aden," Sarea said.

The Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated general cargo ship came under attack in the Bab al-Mandab Strait off Yemen on Sunday, British maritime security firm Ambrey said.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency reported on Sunday that the crew had abandoned a ship off Yemen after an explosion - apparently the same incident.

Iran-aligned Houthi forces have made repeated drone and missile attacks against international commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait - a route that accounts for about 12% of the world's shipping traffic - in what they say is support for Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

The attacks have prompted several companies to halt Red Sea voyages and take a longer and more expensive route around Africa. U.S. and British warplanes have carried out retaliatory strikes across Yemen.

Ambrey said the ship was heading north during its journey from Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates to Varna, Bulgaria, when the attack occurred.

"The partially laden vessel briefly slowed from 10 to six knots and deviated course, and contacted the Djiboutian Navy, before returning to her previous course and speed," it said.

The UK maritime agency said it had received a report of an incident 35 miles south of Al Mukha, a town on Yemen's Red Sea coast, and that an explosion close to a vessel had resulted in damage. It did not identify the ship.

"Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel," it said in an updated advisory note early on Monday, adding that the vessel was at anchor and all the crew were safe.

The CEO of QatarEnergy, Saad al-Kaabi, said on Monday that disruption to shipping in the Red Sea region would impact its deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) but not its production.

"It's only going to take longer to get it there. But it will not reach a point where we have to stop production because there isn't any ship. We're okay," Kaabi said at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Ras Laffan petrochemical complex.

One of the world's largest exporters of LNG, QatarEnergy said in January it had stopped sailing via the Red Sea for security reasons.