Sunday, April 21, 2024

Oil Slick Spreads in Red Sea as Sinking Ship Hit by Houthi Missile Leaks Fuel

HomeWAROil Slick Spreads in Red Sea as Sinking Ship Hit by Houthi...

A cargo ship struck by a Houthi missile in the Red Sea earlier this week has continued to leak oil, creating an 18-mile long slick that is threatening marine life and fisheries in the region.

The Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar was carrying 41,000 metric tons of fertilizer when it was hit by a Houthi ballistic missile on February 20th, fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen across the Red Sea. The Rubymar, owned by a Lebanese company but sailing under a UK registration, sent out a distress call shortly after being struck. A coalition warship and another merchant vessel responded and evacuated the 24 crew members onboard, who were brought to a nearby port in Djibouti.

According to Roy Khoury, head of the Greek operator Blue Fleet Group, the Rubymar remains afloat but is partially submerged, with its engine room and one cargo hold underwater. Khoury stated plans are underway to tow the damaged ship to Djibouti or Aden in Yemen, where its remaining fertilizer cargo will be offloaded before likely being transported to Bulgaria, its intended destination.

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While most previous Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have caused little damage, the strike on the Rubymar may be their most significant and destructive assault to date. In addition to the risk of the vessel sinking entirely, the oil slick spreading from the crippled ship now spans over 18 miles long, according to two unnamed U.S. defense officials.

U.S. Central Command called the spreading slick an “environmental hazard,” threatening fishing areas, coastal habitats, and food imports to the region. However, efforts to contain the spill are incredibly difficult due to the continued threat of Houthi missile attacks in the Red Sea and the rough conditions of the water.

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The dire situation of the Rubymar highlights the recent escalation of assaults on commercial shipping by the Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group in Yemen. While the Houthis claim they are targeting vessels linked to Israel in solidarity with Palestinians, many ships attacked had connections to other countries. One bulk carrier containing grain destined for humanitarian aid in Yemen was also bombarded by the rebels earlier this week.

In response to the attacks, a U.S. and UK-led coalition has mobilized naval forces to defend ships and retaliate against the Houthis. But strikes aimed at disabling launch sites and missile stockpiles inside Houthi territory have so far failed to stop the persistent attacks in the strategic maritime region. Three more Houthi drones were intercepted by coalition forces near commercial ships just today.

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U.S. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said on Thursday there has been a noticeable surge in Houthi aggression over the past three days. However, American officials told CNN the Biden administration is struggling to curb the onslaught, as the Houthis continue acquiring missiles and drones from their key backer, Iran.

While the fate of the damaged Rubymar remains uncertain, its breached hull and spreading oil slick showcase the increasing danger the Houthi rebel attacks pose to one of the world’s most critical shipping lanes. Coalition forces have intercepted numerous attempted assaults recently, but the sophisticated weaponry and unpredictable tactics of the Houthis continue to threaten vessels of all flags transiting the Red Sea.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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