Belize-flagged Rubymar ship sinks in Red Sea following Yemeni Houthi attack

Belize-flagged Rubymar ship sinks in Red Sea following Yemeni Houthi attack
Belize-flagged Rubymar sinks in Red Sea. / CC: US Coast Guard
By bne IntelliNews March 3, 2024

A Belize-flagged bulk tanker, the MV Rubymar (IMO: 9138898), sank early on Saturday on March 2 in the Red Sea following a missile strike by Yemeni Houthis on February 18, US Central Command announced on March 2.

The attack by the Houthi forces, supported by Iran, highlights the growing threat to global maritime activities in the region and is the latest threat to regional safety and wildlife with the leaking of chemicals into the narrow waters.

The unprovoked attack left the vessel gradually flooding, until it submerged around 2:15 a.m. on March 2, according to authorities.

The crew of the tanker ship escaped several days before it went down, with Yemen’s recognised government in exile saying it sank “last night, coinciding with weather factors and strong winds at sea”.

The Rubymar was transporting approximately 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser, a substance now threatening marine ecosystems in the area.

The vessel’s sinking marks the first commercial ship lost since Yemen’s unrecognised Houthi government began targeting ships in the Red Sea in November following the Hamas attack in October on Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's retaliatory invasion of Gaza.

The Houthis have previously said that they would continue to target ships belonging to Western countries and Israel as long as Tel Aviv continues its war in Gaza.

This incident escalates concerns over the safety of one of the world's busiest maritime routes, as the submerged vessel has introduced hazards to other ships navigating these waters.

The bulker has already caused a 30-km oil slick, but the cargo of fertiliser now poses the greatest threat to local marine life, the US noted.

What remains unknown is who is liable for the ship's sinking, with the bulker’s registered managers based in Lebanon as GMZ Ship Management Company, not British as was previously recorded. However, the ultimate beneficial owners are the Captain Wael Chahadah family group of companies with links to Beirut.

The Houthis targeted the ship based on its supposed British links, which appear to have stemmed from an internet entry that recorded Southampton as its registered address. However, upon further investigation, it was discovered that the location of ownership was a residential apartment in the city rather than a port office.

The situation of the bulker is further complicated, with reports suggesting it was not insured by any of the significant shipping insurance companies.