Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Cargo ship sunk by Houthi strike poses environmental risk, says US military

This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows the Belize-flagged cargo ship Rubymar, damaged in a 19 February missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, floating in the Red Sea. (Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies/AFP)


This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows the Belize-flagged cargo ship Rubymar, damaged in a 19 February missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, floating in the Red Sea. (Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies/AFP)

  • Yemen Houthis claimed an attack on a tanker in the Red Sea.
  • The US warned that the ship presented an environmental risk.
  • The crew abandoned the ship and evacuated to safety.

A fertilizer-laden cargo ship, which sank in the Gulf of Aden after it was damaged by missiles from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, poses an environmental risk, the US military warned on Saturday.

The Houthis claimed the 18 February attack against the Rubymar, a cargo ship flying a Belizean flag and operated by a Lebanese firm, which transported combustible fertilizers.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed late on Saturday that the vessel “sank in the Red Sea after being struck” by an anti-ship ballistic missile last month.

“The approximately 21 000 metric tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertilizer that the vessel was carrying presents an environmental risk in the Red Sea,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

“As the ship sinks it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway,” it added.

READ | Houthis strike cargo ship headed to Iran, says US military

Yemen’s government also said earlier on Saturday that the ship had sunk.

Container shipping through the Red Sea dropped by around one-third in the first week of 2024 compared with the same period last year as Houthi attacks caused shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The vessel had departed the United Arab Emirates and was bound for the Bulgarian port of Varna.

In this photo, US Central Command forces alongside

In this photo, US Central Command forces alongside UK Armed Forces, and with the support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conduct strikes on eight Houthi targets in Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen. (Handout/US Central Command/AFP)

Its crew abandoned the ship and evacuated to safety after it was hit by two missiles.

Several other organisations have also expressed concern about the environmental threat posed by the tanker.

Fuel oil appeared to be leaking from the vessel in satellite images shared by Maxar Technologies and published by AFP.

The TankerTrackers website said the sinking would “cause an environmental catastrophe in the (Yemeni) territorial waters and in the Red Sea”.

Since November, the Houthis have been carrying out attacks on ships linked to Israel in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has waged a war against Hamas in Gaza since the Palestinian militant group’s unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October.

In response to the Houthi attacks, Israel’s main ally the US established a multinational force in December to protect maritime traffic in the strategic waterway.

Since January, Washington and its allies have launched numerous strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, where the Iran-backed rebels have fought forces loyal to the internationally recognised government since 2014.

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