Oil tanker on fire after being struck off coast of Yemen amid Houthi threats
Commodities group Trafigura says firefighting equipment has been deployed on the Marlin Luanda and other ships are travelling to help
An oil tanker is on fire after being struck off the coast of Yemen after Houthi threats in the key shipping route continued despite UK and US strikes.
The Houthis have claimed their naval forces carried out an operation targeting “the British oil tanker Marlin Luanda” in the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire to break out.
Shipping data suggests the vessel sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.
They used “appropriate naval missiles, the strike was direct,” the Houthi military spokesperson, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement.
The British government has yet to comment on the claims but commodities group Trafigura said the vessel was operated on its behalf.
In a statement, the company which has offices in Britain, said firefighting equipment on board was being deployed to control the flames and the safety of the crew is its “foremost priority”.
A Trafigura spokesperson said: “Earlier on 26 January, the Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker vessel operated on behalf of Trafigura, was struck by a missile as it transited the Red Sea.
“Firefighting equipment on board is being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side. The safety of the crew is our foremost priority.
“We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully. Military ships in the region are underway to provide assistance.”
The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on ships in the Red Sea since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade.
Alongside numerous airstrikes on key Houthi targets, the UK and US are also targeting key figures in the Iran-backed militant group with sanctions.
A second series of UK and US airstrikes, carried out at the start of the week, appears to have done little to deter Houthi action.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We continue to call on [the Houthis] to step back from such action. We’re clear that this is illegal and unacceptable.”
The foreign secretary, David Cameron, is finishing a trip to the Middle East, in a diplomatic bid to reduce tensions as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues.