Bulker Damaged by Houthi Missile is Afloat, But Sitting Low in the Water

Houthi anti-ship missiles on parade (Yahya Saree / Houthi Military Media)
Houthi anti-ship missiles on parade (Yahya Saree / Houthi Military Media)

Published Feb 21, 2024 3:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

A bulker that was hit by a Houthi missile and damaged on Sunday is still afloat and may be salvageable, based on industry reports and new photos released by the BBC. 

Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked and damaged the bulker Rubymar in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb late Sunday, prompting the crew to abandon ship. The master reported a blast nearby and damage to the engine room.

Rubymar's crew were all safely rescued by a good samaritan vessel, and the Djibouti Port Authority dispatched a harbor tug to take them aboard and bring them ashore. No injuries were reported. 

According to the port authority, the vessel is laden with 22,000 tonnes of fertilizer, and it is a potentially explosive cargo (IMDG Class 5.1). 

In new photos obtained by the BBC on Wednesday, it appears that Rubymar is still afloat, but trimmed heavily by the stern. In the calm waters of the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, there were no signs of wave action, and the calm surface conditions may improve the vessel's odds of survival and salvage. 

A commercial salvor has been contracted to recover Rubymar and tow the vessel safely back to Djibouti. BBC did not indicate a timeline for that work to begin, and the photos (and related satellite imagery) did not show response vessels on scene.

Rubymar is currently abandoned and at anchor just off Mayyun, the small island at the narrowest point of Bab el-Mandeb, based on a position provided by the port authority. 

While the vessel appears to be afloat, multiple propaganda accounts on social media have shared videos and photos of previous vessel sinkings, claiming that the footage shows that the Rubymar went down. Some are conspicuously false, like a famous video of the Capesize bulker Stellar Banner going down and releasing iron ore cargo in 2020. Other false videos could potentially confuse a non-maritime audience. One widely-circulated clip shows the sinking of the geared bulker Atlantik Confidence in 2013. The Confidence was similar in appearance to Rubymar, and was also trimmed heavily by the stern before going down.