Houthi militants attack British oil tanker in Gulf of Aden, Indian Navy contains fire

The tanker had 22 Indians and one Bangladeshi among crew members.

Updated - January 28, 2024 12:47 am IST

Published - January 27, 2024 10:37 pm IST - New Delhi

Smoke billowing from the British oil tanker, MV Marlin Luanda. The Indian Navy team is currently monitoring the situation

Smoke billowing from the British oil tanker, MV Marlin Luanda. The Indian Navy team is currently monitoring the situation | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A British oil tanker, MV Marlin Luanda, was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi militants in the Gulf of Aden on January 26 night, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

Indian warship INS Visakhapatnam extinguished the fire onboard the commercial oil tanker with 22 Indian crew. The Indian Navy deployed its missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam to assist the vessel after receiving a distress call from it on Friday night.

Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said in New Delhi that after six hours of battling the fire along with the crew of MV Marlin Luanda, the Indian Naval firefighting team has successfully brought the blaze under control.

The tanker had 22 Indians and one Bangladeshi among crew members.

The vessel was sailing from Laconian Gulf in Greece to Singapore with Russian naphtha, when it sounded a distress call following the attack.

The Iran-backed group has been targeting merchant vessels on the key global trade route, which they say is in response to the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza.   

It took hours to extinguish the fire on the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker. 

The Indian Navy in a statement said it dispatched its Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Damage Control (NBCD) along with firefighting equipment from the destroyer deployed in the Gulf of Aden following a distress call to “render assistance to the crew towards augmenting firefighting efforts”.

The Indian Navy currently has around 12 warships deployed in the Arabian Sea close to the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy and maritime security operations.

Meanwhile, the London-based company confirmed on Saturday afternoon that all crew members are safe and the fire has been “fully extinguished”.

“The vessel is now sailing towards a safe harbour. The crew continues to monitor the vessel and cargo closely,” the company said in a statement.

 “We would like to recognise the exceptional dedication and bravery of the ship’s master and crew who managed to control the fire in highly difficult circumstances, as well as the essential assistance provided by the Indian, United States and French Navy vessels to achieve this outcome,” Trafigura said.

It said no further vessel operating on behalf of Trafigura is currently transiting the Gulf of Aden. “We continue to assess carefully the risks involved in any voyage, including in respect of security and safety of the crew, together with shipowners and customers,” it added.

The U.S. CENTCOM earlier said on X (formerly Twitter) that the oil tanker was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

“The ship issued a distress call and reported damage. USS Carney and other coalition ships have responded and are rendering assistance,” it said.

Claiming responsibility for the attack, the Houthis said in a statement that they used “appropriate naval missiles; the strike was direct.”

On January 9, the U.S. and the U.K.-led coalition launched joint strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen to “degrade” their capabilities.

A few hours before MV Marlin Luanda was hit, the US CENTCOM had said its forces had destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and ready to launch and presented an “imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region.”

(With PTI inputs)

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