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Ship evacuated after first civilian fatalities in Houthis' Red Sea attacks

March 7, 2024 at 3:11 pm

Yemeni tribesmen belonging to the Houthi movement carry a model of the Houthi-hijacked Israeli Galaxy Leader cargo ship while participating in a popular parade and rally held to support Palestinians and against the US-UK aerial attacks on Yemen, on February 7, 2024, in Sana’a, Yemen. [Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images]

India’s navy evacuated all 20 crew from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea on Thursday, after a Houthi attack killed three seafarers in the first civilian fatalities from the Yemeni group’s campaign against the key shipping route, Reuters reports.

The group fired a missile at the Barbados-flagged, Greek-operated “True Confidence” on Wednesday, about 50 nautical miles off the southern Yemeni port of Aden, setting it ablaze.

In a statement, the owners and manager said all 20 crew and three armed guards on board were taken to hospital in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa by an Indian warship.

Two of the dead were Filipino nationals, while the third was Vietnamese, the owners and managers said, expressing condolences to families. Two other Filipinos were also severely injured.

Vietnam, on Thursday, condemned the attack, and said one of the Vietnamese crew died while the remaining three nationals were in good health.

Images released by the Indian Navy showed a helicopter winching crew members from a small life raft in choppy seas and taking them to a naval ship.

READ: Houthis insist on entry of aid into Gaza in exchange for salvaging sunken British ship

Some wounded were shown lying in the bottom of a navy lifeboat sent to assist. They were carried on stretchers onto the ship and were shown, later, with heavily bandaged limbs as they were evacuated to the Djibouti hospital.

“The vessel is drifting well away from land and salvage arrangements are being made,” the companies said in the statement.

A salvage contract for the vessel has been signed, a spokesperson for the companies told Reuters, declining further details citing security issues.

The Houthis have kept up a relentless campaign of attacks on vessels headed to or from Israel,in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes since November, in what they say is solidarity with the Palestinians during Israel’s with Hamas in Gaza.

“The loss of life and injuries to civilian seafarers is completely unacceptable,” leading global shipping associations said on Thursday.

“The frequency of attacks on merchant shipping highlights the urgent need for all stakeholders to take decisive action to safeguard the lives of innocent civilian seafarers and put an end to such threats.”

The cost of insuring a seven-day voyage through the Red Sea has risen by hundreds of thousands of dollars since November.

War risk insurance rates have already reflected the sinking of the “Rubymar” cargo ship, days after being hit by a Houthi missile on 18 February, and the first fatalities from the “True Confidence”, said Munro Anderson, head of operations at marine war risk and insurance specialist, Vessel Protect – part of Pen Underwriting.

“So, the degree to which they create any further upwards pressure is likely to be limited in the short term,” he said.

“This is, however, predicated on how events evolve from this point forward.”

Sailors’ welfare

The Houthis have used an array of sophisticated weapons, including ballistic missiles and “kamikaze drones”, despite retaliatory US and UK-led strikes on their bases in Yemen, aimed at crippling their ability to attack.

Stephen Cotton, General-Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the leading seafarers union, also called for better protection.

“No delivery window is worth the loss of seafarers’ lives,” he said. “We call on the industry to divert ships around the Cape of Good Hope until safe transit through the Red Sea can be guaranteed.”

Around 23,000 ships a year pass through the narrow Bab Al-Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal, accounting for around 12 per cent of global trade.

Taking the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa adds about 10 days to the journey, delaying supply chains and pushing up costs.

The “True Confidence” was sailing from China to Jeddah and Aqaba with a cargo of steel products and trucks.

The vessel is owned by Liberia-registered True Confidence Shipping SA and operated by Greece-based Third January Maritime. There is no current connection with any US entity, the companies said.

READ: Houthi leader vows to escalate attacks against Israel, US, British ships