Oil tanker on fire near Yemen 'after Houthi missile strike'

Houthi supporters at a demonstration against the US and the UK in Yemen on January 22 (Anadolu via Getty Images)
Houthi supporters at a demonstration against the US and the UK in Yemen on January 22 (Anadolu via Getty Images)

An oil tanker is on fire off the coast of Yemen after a missile strike claimed by the Houthis.

On Friday, it was reported that a vessel in the Red Sea had gone up in flames.

It has since been named as the Marlin Luanda, belonging to multinational firm Trafigura.

The company, which has offices in London, said the safety of crew is its "foremost priority".

A spokesperson said: "Earlier on 26 January, the Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker vessel operated on behalf of Trafigura, was struck by a missile as it transited the Red Sea.

"Firefighting equipment on board is being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side.

"The safety of the crew is our foremost priority.

"We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully. Military ships in the region are underway to provide assistance."

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported an incident 60 nautical miles south east of Aden on Friday.

It comes after an earlier incident in which two missiles were reported to have exploded in the water and “vessel and crew are safe and no damage reported”.

UKMTO said authorities have been informed and are responding to the latest strike, warning other vessels to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on ships in the Red Sea since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade.

Alongside numerous air strikes on key Houthi targets, the UK and US are also targeting key figures in the Iran-backed militant group with sanctions.

A second series of UK and US air strikes, carried out at the start of the week, appears to have done little to deter Houthi action.

Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “We continue to call on (the Houthis) to step back from such action. We’re clear that this is illegal and unacceptable.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is currently finishing a trip to the Middle East, in a diplomatic bid to reduce tensions as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues.