Houthi Attack Damages Shadow Fleet Tanker Carrying Russian Oil

A shadow fleet tanker carrying Russian oil was struck in the Red Sea by a Houthi missile (file photo)

Published May 18, 2024 12:55 PM by The Maritime Executive


Shortly after midnight local time May 18 reports began coming in that a tanker had been struck while heading south in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. They are indicating that there was a fire aboard and damage to the vessel but it received assistance and was proceeding to an unnamed port.

U.S. Central Command is identifying the vessel as the Panama-flagged Wind (105,387 dwt) reporting that the crude oil tanker most recently docked in Russia and was bound for China. Databases reflect the vessel with registered owners in Cyprus and managed and operated from Greece.

The ship transited the Suez Canal on May 12-13 and its last AIS signal from the midpoint in the Red Sea read “China for Orders” as its destination. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) initially reported the vessel’s position as 76 nautical miles northwest of Al Hudaydah, Yemen but in later reports amended the position to 98 miles south of Al Hudaydah.

“The impact of the anti-ship ballistic missile caused flooding which resulted in the of loss propulsion and steering,” reports CENTCOM. “A coalition vessel immediately responded to the distress call by M/T Wind, but no assistance was needed. The crew of M/T Wind was able to restore propulsion and steering, and no casualties were reported. M/T Wind resumed its course under its own power.”

Other reports indicated that there had been a fire aboard the vessel. The British security firm Ambrey is saying that the fire was in the steering gear but that “one of the steering units of the vessel was reportedly functional."

The vessel was coming from Novorossiysk, Russia, and appears to have a spotty history linking it to both transportation of Russian and Venezuelan crude.

“Ironically, Wind is a Dark Fleet tanker that not only we know very well from Venezuela, but was carrying Russian oil last night in the Red Sea. And while the world now knows the vessel as “Wind,” her alias in Venezuela was “King,” writes TankerTrackers.com in a social media posting.

The Equasis database shows that the vessel which is now registered in Panama, in 2022 was registered in Comoros. She returned to the Panama register in 2023 after having left the Panama flag in 2021.

The Houthi have not yet taken credit for the attack. However, it was not the first time they had struck shadow fleet tankers. Earlier in the year it was rumored that they had promised safe passage to tankers traveling between Russia and China. In April however, they also attacked two tankers, the 115,600 dwt Andromeda Star (registered in Panama) and the 81,270 dwt Maisha (registered in Antigua & Barbuda). The Andromeda Star was hit reporting minor damage. Reports said it had been sold several months earlier by its UK owners to a company registered in the Seychelles. 

It is unclear why the Wind was attacked. There are no apparent connections to Israel, the U.S., or the UK which the Houthi declared as the targets of their efforts. At the end of the week, the leader of the Houthi reiterated the threat against all shipping linked to Israel and again said they were expanding their range claiming unconfirmed attacks on Israel.