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U.S. military confirms Rubymar vessel has sunk after being struck by Houthi missile. Handout via REUTERS

The UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Yemeni Houthi militants, is seen in this aerial view released on March 3, 2024. U.S. Central Command/Handout via REUTERS

IMO Calls for Spill Response Aid Following Sinking of MV Rubymar

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2071
July 5, 2024

The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) has issued an urgent call for in-kind contributions of spill response equipment to support the Republic of Yemen after the sinking of the cargo ship MV Rubymar. The vessel, which sank off the coast of Mocha on March 2, 2024, following a Houthi missile strike two weeks earlier, poses significant environmental and maritime security risks.

The Rubymar was carrying approximately 22,000 metric tonnes of ammonium phosphate-sulphate fertilizer, 200 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, and 80 tonnes of marine diesel when it sank in waters approximately 100 meters deep. The incident resulted in a 29-kilometer oil slick, further exacerbating the environmental threat.

Currently, the ship remains partially submerged at the site of its sinking, with its remaining bunker fuel and fertilizer cargo representing a considerable environmental hazard, particularly to the ecologically sensitive Hanish Islands nearby.

The IMO’s call for assistance highlights the lack of specialized oil spill response equipment within Yemen, which is necessary to manage a potential leak from the Rubymar. The organization is seeking contributions from the international community to mitigate the environmental damage.

The incident marked the first sinking of a ship by the Iranian-backed Houthi group since they began their attacks on shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza in November. To date, the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for more than 80 attacks on commercial vessels, resulting in two ships sunk, four fatalities, and multiple injuries and damages to vessels.

The call for contributions follows the UN’s effort to successfully remove more than 1 million barrels of oil from the decaying FSO Safer tanker off Yemen in August 2023, averting a worst case scenario oil spill that would have devastated coastal communities and created a crisis in vital Red Sea shipping lanes. The vessel had been at risk since it was in 2015 amid the ongoing civil war in the country.

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