Fertilizer-carrying cargo ship partially sinks in Red Sea following attack – NYT

The operator of the Rubymar, a cargo ship that was hit by Houthi missiles in the Red Sea late on February 18, has said that the vessel is partially submerged but remains afloat. The New York Times reported on Friday that the head of the Blue Fleet Group, Roy Khoury, now plans to tow the vessel either to Djibouti or Aden, Yemen, in order to transfer its remaining cargo to another ship destined for Bulgaria. The ship’s engine room and one of its holding compartments are currently underwater.

The strikes on the Belize-flagged, British-owned vessel are among the most damaging attacks to have been carried out by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since they began targeting commercial ships in an attempt to pressure Israel to end its months-long assault on Gaza. The Islamist group initially said it had sunk the vessel, but that claim was subsequently shown by satellite images to be false. The US military did confirm, however, that the attack came from within Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen.

Following the missile strikes on Sunday, the Rubymar’s crew issued a distress signal, which was responded to by a coalition warship. The crew, which consisted of 24 members from Syria, Egypt, India, and the Philippines, were subsequently rescued and taken to Djibouti by a French-operated merchant vessel. They have now returned to their home countries.

The Rubymar is carrying around 20,000 tonnes of fertilizer, which, due to its combustibility, is classified as a ‘very dangerous’ cargo. The incident underscores the fact that, although the US and its allies have deployed a powerful naval protection force to the region, the Houthis remain defiant and are still capable of disrupting shipping through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

Last month, the group also struck a US-owned vessel carrying phosphate rock from Egypt to India. That attack caused a fire on board, but did not prevent the Genco Picardy from reaching its destination.

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