UK-registered cargo ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthis loaded with potentially explosive fertiliser

The cargo ship was evacuated after being hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen. Its crew are unhurt but the vessel has been abandoned, ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar explains how it all unfolded

Mystery surrounds the precise whereabouts of a British registered cargo ship with tonnes of potentially explosive fertiliser on board after it was attacked by Houthis off the coast of Yemen.

The Rubymar was hit by missiles near the mouth of the Red Sea forcing the crew to abandon ship as it took on water. Noone was hurt.

The Rubymar sustained “catastrophic” damage in the missile attack off the coast of Yemen, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sare’e said in a statement posted to social media site X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.

The crew were forced to abandon the vessel, which was loaded with potentially explosive fertiliser, but are safe.

“The ship suffered catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt," his statement continued.

“As a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered, it is now at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden.”

Downing Street condemned Houthi attacks on shipping.

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The UK’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) on Sunday said it had received a report of an incident 35 nautical miles south of Al Mukha, a town on Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

The ship, which it did not identify, was damaged after “an explosion in close proximity to the vessel,” UKMTO said, adding that “authorities are investigating”.

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

The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Monday: “Clearly we condemn any attacks by the Houthis against commercial civilian ships.”

The official added that HMS Richmond continues to patrol the Red Sea to help protect commercial shipping.

“As the PM has said, we will not hesitate to act to protect freedom of navigation and lives at sea,” he added.

Richard Meade, editor-in-chief of Lloyd’s List, told ITV News 'with every attack the danger is that crew get killed or ships get sunk'

Richard Meade, editor-in-chief at Lloyd's list said: "It is quite likely that we will see a ship get sunk, now the crew are safe in this instance but that is more luck than judgement.

"I think that we have to remember that each of these ships have 20 to 30 members of crew on board and they are the ones bearing the risk of this."

In the Commons on Monday, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was asked whether more Royal Navy ships will need to be deployed to the region.

He responded: “I said that we would always look at what’s happening… in the Red Sea. I have been there to see, to meet the crews myself, and will make a judgment based on the reality on the ground.

“We do know, and we welcome now the input from a conglomeration of EU countries who are coming to join Prosperity Guardian as well.”

Attacks by Houthis in the Red Sea have disrupted international trade. Credit: AP

The Iran-backed Houthis also claimed to have shot down a US drone in the port city of Hodeidah.

The ship is believed to be Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated and UK-registered, and was travelling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden when it was targeted.

The UK and the US have carried out joint air strikes against Houthis in recent weeks in order to stop attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

Since November, the Iran-backed militants have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea in what they say is an effort to support Palestinians in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

They have often targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The dangers have forced many vessels to divert around the southern tip of Africa instead of using the Suez Canal, increasing costs and lengthening delivery times.

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