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A bulker issued a distress call earlier today off the coast of Yemen after a possible missile strike. Details are unclear and no claim of responsibility has come from the Houthi, but the early reports were that the crew was uninjured and the vessel was heading toward port to assess the extent of damage. However, additional missile assaults were launched against the vessel which was already taking on water and unconfirmed reports are that one crewmember was injured during the second strikes.

The UK Maritime Trade Organizations acknowledged receiving a report of the incident taking place approximately 30 nautical miles south of Hudaydah, Yemen near the northern end of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. They said the vessel “sustained damages” after being struck by missiles and that one hour and 10 minutes later the master reported an impact in the water near the vessel.

Five hours after the earlier reports, UKMTO issued a brief update saying the aster reported further attacks. They said the vessel was 33 nautical miles from Mukha, Yemen. They indicated the crew was safe while third-party reports said there was at least one injury. Coalition forces are reported to be investigating. 

The alerts did not identify the vessel but media reports are widely identifying the vessel as the Laax (82,265 dwt) registered in the Marshall Islands and managed from Greece. The vessel which was built in 2012 is a standard bulker measuring 751 feet (229 meters) in length. The vessel’s AIS shows that the voyage originated in Paranagua, Brazil, and is bound for Iran while some reports suggest the vessel is heading to Fujairah in the UAE.

Security consultant Ambrey reported hearing the distress call with the ship saying that one of its holds was damaged and that it was taking on water. They are being quoted as saying the vessel was listing.

The reason for the attack is unclear at this time as the vessel has been managed from Greece by Grehel Shipmanagement for more than a decade. However, the Houthis circulated today a copy of an email sent to shipowners asserting that during their fourth wave, they extended the targeting to include any ships of any company calling in an Israeli port. 

Grehel on its website lists 10 ships under management and a sister company Newport lists 22 vessels. Both companies are controlled by Langlois Enterprises. The shipping company declined to comment to a reporter from Reuters.

Unconfirmed reports on social media are suggesting the AIS indication of Iran was a rouse and angered the Houthi. Vessels are continuing to use the AIS to include messages such as Chinese crew or armed guards aboard. There is no evidence that this works to protect ships, The Laax appears to have turned off its AIS which has also been cited by the Houthi as a violation.

Today’s attack came just hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Shayea Mohsen Al-Zindani, Yemen's minister of foreign affairs. According to a report from Chinese news service Xinhua, Minister Wang called for “an end to the harassment of civilian vessels and to ensure the safety of waterways in the Red Sea.” 

IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee last week condemned the attacks on commercial shipping in the region as “illegal and unjustifiable.” The member states adopted a resolution on May 23 calling for an immediate end to ongoing attacks on ships and seafarers transiting through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Source: maritime-executive.com