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

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

Reuters
Published : 19 Feb 2024, 04:02 PM
Updated : 19 Feb 2024, 04:02 PM

Yemen's Houthi militants said on Monday they had attacked another 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, drawing U.S. and British bombing against them. 

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 U.S drone over the Yemeni port Hodeidah, Sarea added. 

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

"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% 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. 

GREEK-FLAGGED SHIP HIT 

In a second incident within hours, a Greece-flagged, U.S.-owned bulk carrier with 23 crew members was attacked twice on Monday 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 on Monday called for the release of the 25 crew members of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship hijacked by the Houthis three months ago. 

"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% of the value of the vessels, before various discounts which still works out at 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.