IMO Asks for ROV to Support Cleanup Off Yemen After Rubymar Sank

Red Sea oil slick
Oil slick forming while the Rubymar was drifting in the Red Sea (CENTCOM)

Published Jul 4, 2024 11:58 AM by The Maritime Executive


The International Maritime Organization has gone public with an appeal to the world community inviting in-kind contributions of spill response equipment to support the Republic of Yemen. The organization published an appeal released last week that seeks the donation of a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROUV or ROV) along with a list of equipment to be used in cleanup efforts.

The call for contributions of oil pollution response equipment the IMO says is to support operations related to the sinking of Rubymar (32,200 dwt) off the coast of Yemen in March 2024. The Belize-flagged vessel was attacked by the Houthis on February 18 and abandoned in the Red Sea. It is believed the Houthis later boarded the disabled vessel to hasten its demise. 

During the time the vessel was drifting and slowly taking on water, the U.S. Central Command and others highlighted the growing environmental disaster. The IMO is highlighting that there were 200 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 80 tonnes of marine diesel on board. In the days following the attack, an oil slick grew behind the vessel reported to reach 18 miles from the wreck.

Another major concern is that the Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of ammonium phosphate-sulfate fertilizer when it was attacked. Environmentalists have emphasized the dangers if it leaks into the Red Sea. The ship went down in about 328 feet (100 meters) of water.

“The ship is currently partially submerged at the location of its sinking, with the remaining bunker fuel and fertilizer cargo onboard representing a significant environmental threat to the Republic of Yemen, in particular to the nearby Hanish Islands, a biologically rich area,” writes the IMO.

Recognizing the lack of specialized oil spill response equipment within the country to respond to a possible leak or other environmental issues, the IMO is inviting in-kind contributions of spill response equipment in support of the Republic of Yemen. In addition to the ROV, they are calling for equipment including a shovelhead skimmer, nozzles used in cleaning efforts, towing brindles, anchoring equipment, and a broad range of personal protective equipment.

The Rubymar was the first vessel confirmed to have sunk due to the Houthi attacks. A second vessel, the Tutor, was also sunk by the Houthi while the vessel was drifting in the Red Sea after an attack. At least two other vessels were badly damaged by fires due to the attacks but are believed to be afloat with reports of salvage efforts.  A third vessel, a small tanker, is also being reported as having sank in the Gulf of Aden but this is not being linked to the Houthi but instead, it was an older vessel that reported mechanical problems. A Sovcomflot tanker rescued the crew when they abandoned ship and Reuters is now citing local officials who are saying the ship has disappeared from radar.

The IMO had previously wanted about the severe environmental dangers in the region during the efforts to salvage the FSO Safer. The effort led by the UN successfully moved the oil to another storage tanker but was stopped due to the current conflict before the safer was removed and recycled.