The bulk carrier, MV Ruen, was en-route from Singapore when it was boarded by pirates on Thursday
A Maltese-flagged bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates is heading towards Yemen, triggering fears they are cooperating with Houthi rebels.
The MV Ruen was en-route from Singapore to Gemlik in Turkey when it was boarded by pirates in the Arabian Sea on Thursday.
It sent a mayday signal to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations portal saying six people had boarded the vessel off the Yemeni island of Socotra.
The tanker, which had 18 crew members on board, was reportedly last seen sailing along the north coast of Portland, Somalia.
However, according to recent tracking, the Ruen is moving north towards the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which leads into the Red Sea.
Maritime experts fear the route being taken by the seven-year-old carrier is an indication that Somali pirates are working in concert with Houthi rebels, who have targeted shipping routes in protest at the Israeli-Hamas war.
While Somali piracy has been a long-standing problem on the east coast of Africa, the entry of the Houthis is a comparatively new development.
On November 19, Houthi rebels, using a helicopter, launched a commando raid on a Japanese-operated cargo vessel, the MV Galaxy Leader has been held near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida ever since.
Significantly, investors in the vessel included Abraham “Rami” Ungar, an Israeli tycoon.
The sophistication of the raid was seen as significant, along with the vessel’s apparent Israeli links.
A week later, pirates attempted to hijack MV Central Park, a chemical tanker loaded with phosphoric acid.
Again, the vessel had an Israeli investment.
The pirates, who were identified as Somali, were beaten off. But within 90 minutes of their being captured, ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-held territory in Yemen.
Like Hamas, the Houthis receive Iranian funding.
They have also declared they are targeting Israeli shipping, which they have described as “legitimate targets for us anywhere.”
‘Direct threat to international commerce’
In late November, the Ministry of Defense deployed HMS Diamond, a Type 45 Destroyer, to the region to bolster security.
On Saturday, it shot down a drone, which it believed was targeting shipping in the area, especially vessels traveling to Israel, irrespective of their ownership.
“The recent spate of illegal attacks represents a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea.
“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” explained Grant Shapps, the Defense Secretary.
In a fresh move, the US is to expand its maritime protection force in response to the growing number of Houthi attacks being mounted from Yemen ports.
Lloyd Austin, US defense secretary, is to announce the deployment of the force, provisionally entitled Operation Prosperity Guardian, when he visits the region.
The move comes with Joe Biden coming under pressure from major shipping companies to act against the Houthi militants.
Several shipping companies, including Hapag-Lloyd of Germany and Danish shipping giant, Maersk, have said they are halting shipping operations into the Red Sea until further notice.
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