Crew evacuated from UK-registered ship still 'taking in water' 36 hours after Houthi missile attack in Red Sea

Crew evacuated from UK-registered ship still 'taking in water' 36 hours after Houthi missile attack in Red Sea

The crew of a UK-registered cargo ship in the Red Sea were evacuated after it was damaged in a missile attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, say maritime authorities.

The Houthis identified the vessel as the Rubymar and claimed it may be at risk of sinking, though this could not be independently confirmed.

The ship targeted in the attack on Sunday reported sustaining damage after “an explosion in close proximity to the vessel”, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centre (UKMTO) reported.

“Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel,” UKMTO said. “Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe.”

US Central Command said: “Between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier. One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage. The ship issued a distress call and a coalition warship along with another merchant vessel responded to the call to assist the crew of the MV Rubymar. The crew was transported to a nearby port by the merchant vessel.”The Rubymar sustained damaged although the crew were able to evacuate, the vessel's maritime security company LSS-SAPU told Reuters on Monday.

"We know she was taking in water," LSS-SAPU said when asked about the vessel's condition.

"There is nobody on board now," LSS-SAPU added.

"The owners and mangers are considering options for towage."

The operator of the vessel is understood to be a Lebanese registered company and it is Belize flagged.

The 24-person crew were rescued by the MV Lobivia a Singapore-flagged container ship and were enroute to Djibouti.

None of the crew are UK or US nationals.

The master and crew of the MV Rubymar are understood to have abandoned ship due to their vessel taking on water, a situation understood to be continuing at least 36 hours after the attack.

In a second incident in the Red Sea, a Greece-flagged, US-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.

So far, no ships attacked by the Houthis have been sunk or any crew killed but there are growing safety fears, and if either of these situations happened it would dramatically increase the Red Sea crisis.

Britain condemned the attack on the Rubymar.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As you will appreciate, it’s a developing situation.”

He added: “Clearly, we condemn any attacks by the Houthis against commercial, civilian ships.

“HMS Diamond and HMS Richmond continue to patrol the Red Sea to help protect commercial shipping and as the PM has said we will not hesitate to act to protect the freedom of navigation and lives at sea.”

A Government spokesperson later said: “We condemn this reckless attack by the Houthis against the MV Rubymar, a Belize flagged cargo ship. Current reports suggest no casualties.

“Nearby coalition vessels are already on the scene and HMS Richmond continues to patrol in the Red Sea to help protect commercial shipping.”

The ship was reported to be travelling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Houthi Brigadier General Yahya Saree issued a statement claiming the attack, saying the vessel was “now at risk of potentially sinking”.

“The ship suffered catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt,” he said. “During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

The private security firm Ambrey reported the British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo ship had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

Ambrey described the ship as being partially laden with cargo, but it was not immediately clear what it had been carrying. The ship had reportedly turned off its Automatic Identification System tracker while in the Persian Gulf early this month.

Since November, the Yemen-based rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over Israel’s war targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Britain has rejected any link with the attacks and the Hamas/Israel war and has joined the US in launching air strikes on Houthi positions.

Other UK-linked ships have been targeted by the Houthi campaign.

The Houthi attacks have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, putting in danger shipping on a key route for trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Those vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, its main benefactor.

Meanwhile, the US military’s Central Command reported it carried out five airstrikes targeting Houthi military equipment. Those strikes targeted mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, an explosive-carrying drone boat and an “unmanned underwater vessel,” Central Command said.

“This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in October 23,” Central Command said.