June 21, 2024

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Oil tanker crew safe after spending 20 hours fighting fire caused by Houthi strike

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ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has the details of the fire which took hold on board the Marlin Luanda

Crew aboard an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen spent Friday night and Saturday morning fighting a fire caused by a missile strike claimed by Houthi forces.

The vessel was operated on behalf of multinational company Trafigura, which has offices in London and is domiciled in Singapore.

French forces based in the UAE and Indian Ocean said that it took 20 hours for the fire to be brought under control.

A spokesperson for the company said at 12pm UK time that all crew members on the Marlin Luanda, a vessel operated on its behalf, were safe and that the fire had been extinguished.

“We would like to recognise the exceptional dedication and bravery of the ship’s master and crew who managed to control the fire in highly difficult circumstances, as well as the essential assistance provided by Indian, United States and French Navy vessels to achieve this outcome,” they said.

“No further vessels operating on behalf of Trafigura are currently transiting the Gulf of Aden and we continue to assess carefully the risks involved in any voyage.”

France’s Navy said it took around 20 hours the fire was brought under control. Credit: @FFEAU_ALINDIEN

The Marlin Luanda was on its way back to a safe harbour, the spokesperson added. UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported an incident 60 nautical miles south east of Aden on Friday.

A government spokesperson said: “We have been clear that any attacks on commercial shipping are completely unacceptable and that the UK and our allies reserve the right to respond appropriately.”

Houthi forces claimed they had targeted a “British oil” vessel, but shipping data shows the Marlin Luanda sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

It comes after an earlier incident in which two missiles were reported to have exploded in the water and “vessel and crew are safe and no damage reported”.

A view of the burning tanker from India’s INS Visakhapatnam. Credit: Indian Navy

Militants also launched a missile on Friday at the USS Carney, a United States destroyer patrolling the Gulf of Aden, which

The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on ships in the Red Sea since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, fuelling fears of a wider regional conflict emerging.

The USS Carney attack marked the first time the Houthis directly targeted a US warship since Houthi fighters began their assaults on shipping. The Carney shot down the anti-ship ballistic missile.

Crew aboard the tanker tried to get the fire under control. Credit: Indian Navy

Responding to the attack, Brad Bowman, a senior director at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said: “They’re now finally calling a spade a spade, and saying that, yeah, they’re trying to attack our forces, they’re trying to kill us.”

The Houthis are a group of Shia Islamists, who oppose the influence that both Israel and the US have in the Middle East – they are backed by Iran and are allied with other Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Houthis have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade.

Alongside numerous air strikes on key Houthi targets, the UK and US are also targeting key figures in the Iran-backed militant group with sanctions.

Four Houthi leaders will be subject to UK asset freezes, arms embargoes and travel bans. 

Houthis claimed they targeted a ‘British oil’ vessel, but shipping data shows the Marlin Luanda sails under a Marshall Islands flag. Credit: Indian Navy

Earlier this month the UK and US took action against the Houthis and shot missiles at targets in Yemen.

But a second series of UK and US air strikes, carried out at the start of the week, appears to have done little to deter Houthi action.

Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman 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.

”Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is currently finishing a trip to the Middle East, in a diplomatic bid to reduce tensions as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues.”

Early on Saturday, US forces carried out a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and prepared to launch, the US military’s Central Command said.

The Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the strikes happened near the port city of Hodeida, but offered no assessment of their damage.

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