Saudi Coalition: Damaged Bulker was Not Smuggling Explosives
On Monday, a spokesman for the Saudi military coalition in Yemen confirmed that the recent explosion aboard the bulker Ince Inebolu was not caused by explosive materials smuggled on board.
The blast damage pattern indicates that the blast did occur within the hull, but ship operator Ince Shipping asserts that it was the result of a missile penetrating the outer plating and detonating within a compartment.
At the time of the blast, the Inebolu had already passed the U.N. Verification, Inspection and Monitoring (UNVIM) clearance check for Yemen-bound cargo, a process that is intended to detect arms and explosives smuggling. She was carrying a load of Russian wheat for delivery at the port of Saleef.
At midnight on May 10, the Inebolu suffered an explosion in her Number 3 topside tank, causing localized structural damage and a sizeable hole in her hull. Saudi forces responded to the scene and arranged to bring the vessel to the port of Gizan. No personnel were injured in the blast.
Saudi spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said Monday that the Inebolu's crew had detected a boat by radar before the attack, and the small craft approached to within four nm and departed after the explosion. Maliki accused Yemen's Houthi rebels of carrying out the strike.
In the recent past, Houthi rebels have launched attacks on Saudi-allied vessels in the Red Sea, but they have not previously attempted to strike non-allied merchant shipping. Houthi leaders contend that the Inebolu was struck by Saudi coalition warplanes, not by rebel forces. In a statement, the Houthi ministry of transport told semi-official news outlet Saba that the vessel "was targeted by [the Saudi coalition] after taking the permit to enter from the [UN Verification, Inspection and Monitoring] office in Djibouti."