Greek Ship Hit by Houthi Missile, Shell Oil Suspends Red Sea Shipments

Houthi fighters brandish their weapons during a protest following US and British forces strikes, in the Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa on Jan. 12, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

(Bloomberg News/TNS/Hamodia) – A Greek commodity-carrying ship was hit by a missile in the Red Sea, a fresh sign of intensifying attacks on merchant vessels by Houthi rebels seeking to undermine Israel and the West.

The Greek-owned bulk carrier Zografia was struck about 76 miles (122 kilometers) northwest of Al-Saleef, in Yemen, according to Ambrey Analytics. The British navy earlier said authorities were investigating an incident to the northwest of Saleef.

Since Friday, the U.S. navy and shipping trade groups have been advising vessels to stay away from the southern part of the Red Sea near the Yemeni coastline. It’s a move that has prompted a fresh round of trade disruption as everything from oil tankers to gas carriers begin to embark on a detour thousands of miles around the coast of Africa. The U.S. said ships carrying its flag should avoid the waterway until further notice.

In another sign of the disruptions ramping up, major British oil company Shell told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday that it was suspending its shipments that traversed the Red Sea. ‘We’ll have to see whether this becomes a longer-standing issue,’ CEO Wael Sawan said.

Houthi rebels have been targeting vessels for several weeks, a move they say is in response to Israel’s war with Hamas. After the U.S. and U.K. launched airstrikes on the group in Yemen last week, Houthi leadership said that vessels from those two countries would be considered targets too.

Tuesday’s attack followed one on Monday that saw a U.S.-owned bulk commodity carrier hit by a missile.

It was unclear why the Greek-owned vessel was hit. In the past some ships — notably two vessels carrying Russian oil — appear to have been targeted in error. The Zografia sails under the flag of Malta and has insurance cover with a Norway-based company.

After the strike on Tuesday, the Zografia changed course, Ambrey said. The vessel suffered damage to its cargo hold but was able to continue its voyage. Upon entry into the Gulf of Aden, it turned its satellite tracking signal off, but resumed signals once it passed through the narrow Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint. It appears to have been struck after that.

The persistence of the attacks has sent the cost of insuring ships sailing through the region surging higher. War risk rates have climbed tenfold over the last few weeks to about 1% of the value of a ship, people familiar with that market said on Monday. That means a vessel worth $100 million could have to pay $1 million to sail through the Red Sea.

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