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Red Sea Crisis

Red Sea struck by three new risks as Rubymar sinks

Photo: US CENTCOM X Feed The sunken hull of the Rubymar
The handysize bulk carrier, Rubymar, flagged in Belize, eventually foundered early on Saturday morning two weeks after being struck by a Houthi-fired anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18.

The 1997-built, 32,211dwt vessel, originally built in Japan, was carrying a 21,000-tonne cargo of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser at the time of the strike, which initially flooded the engine room. The 24-man crew were subsequently evacuated but the waters around the Bab el Mandeb Strait were deemed too dangerous to send salvage personnel.

According to a statement issued by US military Central Command in Florida on Saturday, the sunken  vessel now presents a navigational hazard to shipping. Experts have also warned that the oil slick created by the ship’s fuel oil and previously reported by the US military as extending over 29 kilometres, could get worse.

Meanwhile, others warn that the bulker’s cargo of fertiliser could cause significant harm to the unique under-sea eco-system of the Red Sea, home to 300 species of coral and 2,100 types of fish, some of which are unique to these waters.

Although the ship is widely reported to have been owned by interests in the UK, specifically Golden Adventure Shipping SA of an address in Southampton, this appears unlikely, and details of the ship’s ownership remain opaque. Its manager, GMZ Ship Management Company SA, is based in Lebanon and it is reported that brokers representing the company have signed a Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract.

However, Seatrade Maritime News understands that neither salvage companies operating within the region, nor potential ports of refuge, would agree to come to the stricken vessel’s assistance. Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Houthis said they would resist salvage efforts unless humanitarian aid were sent to Gaza.

The bulk carrier is understood to have loaded her cargo in the United Arab Emirates and was destined for Bulgaria. Unsurprisingly, her insurance arrangements remain unclear.