Reports say a Greek-owned ship flying with the flag of Malta was hit by a missile launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels while sailing off the coast of Yemen.
The ship was reported to be a dry bulk vessel, Zografia, and it sustained minor damage, maritime sources told the Reuters news agency.
According to Vulcanis Technical Maritime Enterprises, with headquarters based in Piraeus port, all twenty-four foreign nationals of the vessel’s crew are safe and unharmed. The crew is comprised of three Filipinos, twenty Ukrainians, and one Georgian national.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which is part of the Royal Navy and advises on maritime security for merchant ships, reported that the incident occurred approximately a hundred nautical miles northwest of Salif.
“Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO,” the organization said on X.
Al Arabiya reported the bulk carrier was targeted and impacted with a missile while transiting northbound.
British maritime security firm Ambrey says a Malta-flagged, Greek-owned, bulk carrier was reportedly targeted and impacted with a missile while transiting northbound approximately 76 nautical miles northwest of Yemen’s #Saleef. pic.twitter.com/1EreVNHhgf
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) January 16, 2024
The ship, which has visited Israel since the outbreak of war in Gaza and was headed to the Suez, changed course and headed to port after the incident, British Maritime Security firm Ambrey said.
Greek ships along with dozens of others have been targeted off Yemen
On Monday, the group hit an American-owned cargo ship with a ballistic missile in defiance of a wave of US and UK strikes on Yemen.
The strike against the Marshall Islands-flagged Gibraltar Eagle container ship represented a widening of the theater of war beyond the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
The strike hit the cargo hold of the ship, and while it was thought to have caused no major damage, this will add to fears that the US and UK strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen have not degraded the militia group’s ability to threaten commercial shipping.
The Houthis, an Iranian-backed Shia group that has been battling for control of Yemen for more than twenty years, say the more than thirty attacks on commercial shipping over the past six weeks are part of an effort to put pressure on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The Houthis’ chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam, said on Monday that the group’s position had not changed after the US-led strikes. He indicated that strikes would continue on ships heading to Israel. “Our position on the events in Palestine and the aggression against Gaza has not changed and would not change, neither after the strike nor after the threats,” he said.
“The attacks to prevent Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine are continuing,” he added.
Disruption of world trade
Much of the world’s oil and natural gas originates from the region, and the Red Sea is used to transport roughly fifteen percent of the world’s shipping traffic.
With Houthis attacking dozens of ships since the war in Gaza erupted, trade flows have been hit at a time when supply strains and low demand are putting pressure on prices globally.
Some major shipping lines and oil giant BP have already diverted vessels around southern Africa, adding time and costs to journeys rather than risk going through the Red Sea.
If the crisis continues, the increased costs of oil and goods may be passed on to consumers in stores and at the petrol pump.