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19 Feb, 2024 18:03

‘Catastrophic’ Houthi attack damages British ship

The Yemeni group has claimed to have shot down a US drone as well
‘Catastrophic’ Houthi attack damages British ship

The Belize-flagged merchant vessel Rubymar has suffered “catastrophic” damage and its crew has abandoned ship, a spokesman for the Yemeni military announced on Monday. According to Yahya Saree, the Houthi forces also downed a US Reaper drone over a Red Sea port.

The Houthis, which control the Yemeni capital, have been interdicting shipping related to Israel – and later the US and the UK as well – since late October, in protest over the Israeli military operation against the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Rubymar sailed under the flag of Belize, but its owner is registered as the UK-based Golden Adventure Shipping. It was carrying cargo from the UAE to Bulgaria. It was targeted with “a number of appropriate naval missiles,” Saree said in a statement shared on X (formerly Twitter). 

“The ship suffered catastrophic damage and came to a complete halt,” the Yemeni spokesman added. “As a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered, it is now at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden. During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

According to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) center, the Rubymar was “at anchor” some 35 nautical miles south of al-Mukha, in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait.

“There is nobody on board now,” LSS-SAPU, the Rubymar’s maritime security company, told Reuters. The company said that two missiles were fired at the ship, which was “taking in water” as a result. “The owners and managers are considering options for towage,” LSS-SAPU added.

This is the first time a crew has had to abandon ship after a Houthi attack, and the most serious damage inflicted on a merchant vessel since the January 26 fire on board the tanker Marlin Luanda.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Sunday that American warships had destroyed a Houthi submersible drone, noting the group’s first use of that particular technology. The US and the UK have repeatedly launched air strikes against the Houthis since mid-January, in an effort to “degrade” the group’s capabilities and ensure the safe passage of merchant ships through the Red Sea. 

Meanwhile, the Yemenis claimed to have shot down a MQ9 Reaper drone over the port of Hodeidah, accusing the UAV of “carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” meaning Israel. The Houthi spokesman vowed that operations against Western shipping would continue “until the aggression stops and the siege on the Gaza Strip is lifted.”

The Houthi harassment of merchant ships has forced major Western carriers to sail around Africa instead of using the Suez Canal, raising insurance premiums and cargo costs.