Houthi missiles hit Trafigura fuel tanker in escalation of Red Sea attacks

Trafigura's logo.
Trafigura's logo. Photo credit: Reuters / Denis Balibouse.

By Reuters

Yemen's Houthi rebels on Friday stepped up attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea, including a hit on a fuel tanker operated on behalf of trading firm Trafigura that sparked a fire.

Trafigura said a missile struck the fuel tanker Marlin Luanda, operating on its behalf, as it transited the Red Sea.

Firefighting equipment on board was being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side, the company said in an emailed statement.

"We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully," it said, adding military ships in the region were underway to provide assistance.

Earlier, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency and British maritime security firm Ambrey earlier said they had received reports of vessels being struck in the Red Sea near Yemen's Aden and a fire breaking out aboard.

The Houthi military spokesperson said naval forces carried out an operation targeting the "British" tanker Marlin Luanda in the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire to break out.

UKMTO received a report of an incident approximately 60 nautical miles south east of Aden where "a vessel has been struck by a missile and remains on fire," though the crew were reported safe.

"Coalition Warships are in attendance and supporting the vessel," UKMTO added.

Ambrey also said it was aware of an incident 55 miles (88.5 kilometres) southeast of Aden where a fire broke out after a merchant vessel was hit by a "missile", though the crew were reported safe.

Earlier on Friday, UKMTO reported an incident in which two missiles exploded in waters near a ship off the port of Aden and another one 60 nautical miles off Yemen's Hodeidah port.

The U.S. military shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen on Friday, it said in a statement, adding there were no injuries or damage from the interception.

It was unclear if one of those vessels was the Marlin Luanda.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi militants, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have launched wave after wave of exploding drones and missiles at commercial vessels since Nov. 19, in what they say is a response to Israel's military operations in Gaza.

The Houthi campaign has been very disruptive to international shipping, causing some companies to suspend transits through the Red Sea and instead take the much longer, costlier journey around Africa.

U.S. and British warplanes, ships and submarines have launched dozens of air strikes across Yemen against Houthi forces in retaliation.