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Houthi rebels unlikely to target non-Saudi vessels following attack on Bahri VLCC

Houthi rebels unlikely to target non-Saudi vessels following attack on Bahri VLCC
06 April 2018

Bahri has confirmed an attack earlier this week on one its VLCCs by Houthi rebels in the Bab al-Mandab Straits, but a wider threat to commercial shipping is not seen.

Bahri confirmed an attack on Tuesday on its very large crude carrier (VLCC) Abqaiq in international waters south west of the port of Hodeidah in Yemen.

“The VLCC (very large crude carrier) suffered only minor damage and there were no injuries to our crew aboard. The cargo was unaffected and there was no loss of containment. The crude carrier successfully resumed her northward journey across the Red Sea,” Bahri said in a statement.

According to Dryad Maritime the vessel was being escorted by a Saudi warship at the time of the attack and was hit on the starboard bow by a projectile that penetrated a 20 – 30cm hole into the outer hull of the tanker. It said the projectile could have been an improvised High Explosive projectile (artillery or recoilless rifle) round with a nose fuse and of a caliber of between 82-105mm or a small rocket (unguided) or missile (guided).

White House press secretary Sarah Huckerbee Sanders said the US was very concerned by the Houthis escalating the conflict in Yemen by attacking a commercial vessel in international waters.

“A significant portion of global trade moves through the Bab al-Mandab every day, including key energy and food supplies. In January, the Houthis publicly threatened to attack international commercial maritime traffic in the Red Sea, and launched this attack near the vital port of Hudaydah,” the press secretary said in a statement.

Dryad Maritime, however, does not see a wider threat to non-Saudi commercial shipping plying the region with rebels using their resources to target Saudi-related assets. “Dryad continue to assess that targeting by Houthi rebels is almost exclusively as a result of vessels being identified as being in support of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen or due to proximity to Saudi Naval vessels.

“Houthi rebels are assessed as being highly unlikely to utilise limited and valuable weapon systems against targets that are not positively identifiable as being of Saudi origin or in direct support of Saudi coalition forces,” it said.

In January this year ICS, Bimco and Intertanko issued new security recommendations for shipowners transiting the southern part of the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb