Rubymar ship attacked by Houthi rebels finally sinks in Red Sea

A UK-owned ship attacked by Yemeni Houthis has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of the rebels’ campaign over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The sinking of the Rubymar comes as shipping through the crucial waterway for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East to Europe has been affected by the Houthi attacks.

Many ships have turned away from the route. The sinking of the Rubymar could lead to further detours and higher insurance rates put on vessels plying the waterway – potentially driving up global inflation and affecting aid shipments to the region.

The US military published an image of the sinking vessel and said it now posed a risk to the environment and shipping. “The approximately 21,000 metric tons of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer that the vessel was carrying presents an environmental risk in the Red Sea. As the ship sinks it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway,” it said on Sunday.

Ian Ralby, founder of maritime security firm IR Consilium, said part of the environmental dangers lay in the Red Sea’s circular water patterns. It operates essentially as a giant lagoon, with water moving northward, toward the Suez canal in Egypt, during winter and outward to the Gulf of Aden in summer.

“What spills in the Red Sea, stays in the Red Sea,” said Ralby. “There are many ways it can be harmed.”

The Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated Rubymar had been drifting northward after being attacked on 18 February in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship had sunk. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no authorisation was given to speak to journalists about the incident.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations centre, which watches over Middle East waterways, separately acknowledged the Rubymar’s sinking on Saturday afternoon.

The Beirut-based manager of the Rubymar could not be immediately reached for comment.

Despite more than a month of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. That includes the attack on the Rubymar and the downing of a US drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Houthis insist their attacks, which have enraged the wider Arab world, will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in Gaza.

Source: The Guardian

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