Another UK Ship On Fire Near Yemen As Sea Becomes Littered With Disabled Tankers

The last several days have witnessed well over half a dozen attacks or attempted attacks by Houthis on foreign vessels and tankers in the Red Sea. For example the US military confirmed Tuesday that two US-owned tankers were struck the day prior. Such attacks are now coming several times a day.

On Thursday the Pentagon said its coalition ships in the Red Sea intercepted six more drones over waters off Yemen. This came after another UK-owned ship was struck, and is reportedly burning and immobile some 70 nautical miles southeast of Aden.

A new United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency alert said the British-owned, Palau-flagged ship was hit by two missiles while en route from Thailand to Egypt.

Increasingly, waters off Yemen are being littered with disabled and sinking tankers, as the saga of the Belize-flagged, British-registered Rubymar has shown. Earlier in the week it was hit by Houthi fire and the crew abandoned ship

There are reports that the vessel’s operators are currently trying to tow the ship to Djibouti, and that it remains partially below water, the engine room having suffered severe damage.

BBC wrote of one image widely circulating that it is “said to be from Tuesday and shows a vessel still above water. It is down by the stern, but has not sunk. Although the ship’s name is not visible, all of its characteristics match those of the Rubymar.”

The partially sunk Rubymar. Image source: BBC

Based on the ratcheting rate of these attacks, expect more such images of other ships to emerge in the coming weeks and months, as the war in Gaza rages on.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have issued a new alert, formalizing a ban on all foreign vessels’ passage (presumably excluding Russian, Chinese, and Iranian ships of course). According to the Thursday notification:

The Houthis’ communication, the first to the shipping industry outlining a formalized ban, came in the form of two notices from the Houthis’ newly-dubbed Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center sent to shipping insurers and firms.

Ships that are wholly or partially owned by Israeli individuals or entities and Israel-flagged vessels, or are owned by US or British individuals or entities, or sailing under their flags, are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, Thursday’s notices said.

“The Humanitarian Operations Center was established in Sanaa to coordinate the safe and peaceful passage of ships and vessels that have no connection to Israel,” a Houthi official told Reuters.

UK-owned Rubymar from earlier this week, via BBC

According to the latest from the Houthi military spokesman Thursday: “In response to the US-UK aggression, the armed forces of Yemen carried out 3 operations”…

  • The launching of a number of ballistic missiles and drones at various targets in Umm al-Rashrash (Eilat), south of occupied Palestine.
  • The targeting of a British ship “ISLANDER” in the Gulf of Aden, using anti-ship missiles. The ship was directly hit, leading to a fire on board.
  • The targeting of an American destroyer (warship) in the Red Sea using a number of kamikaze drones.

Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM has written in a new note, “If anything, Houthis attacks on cargo ships are intensifying in the Red Sea and around the Gulf of Aden.” The US-led coalition named Operation Prosperity Guardian has not deterred these attack. If anything, they’ve only escalated.

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