Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen targeted a ship carrying Russian oil on Friday.
They likely targeted the ship “mistakenly” as it was listed with a UK owner, said a British security firm.
The ship is part of a “dark fleet” used to transport sanctioned Russian oil, per Lloyd’s List.
Despite a G7-imposed price cap and sweeping wartime sanctions, Russia has managed to keep its energy revenues humming thanks to a dark, or shadow, fleet of oil tankers.
However, a recent incident in the Red Sea highlights some of the risks faced by dark fleet ships, which typically have opaque ownership and frequently change their vessel names and flag registrations. The vessels also obscure their locations by switching off their tracking systems.
On Friday, Iran-backed Houthi rebels targeted a Panama tanker transporting Russian oil off the coast of Yemen, according to various reports that cited British maritime security firm Ambrey. The vessel was carrying Russian oil loaded at the port of Ust-Luga.
The missile missed the tanker, which is likely the Khalissa, per Ambrey. That vessel that was sold by Union Maritime, a UK-based company, five months ago. It’s not immediately clear who its current owner is.
However, the ship was “still listed as UK-affiliated on a public maritime database,” so the Houthis likely targeted it mistakenly, according to Ambrey.
It’s not immediately clear where the Khalissa was headed and how it identified itself, but industry publication Lloyd’s List said it’s one of 560 vessels in a dark fleet that is used to transport sanctioned Russian oil.
“This was the second tanker mistakenly targeted by the Houthis whilst carrying Russian oil,” Ambrey added. It’s not clear when the first incident happened.
The Houthis have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea since November in retaliation for Israel’s bombings in Gaza. A senior Houthi official said last month the group will only stop their attacks if Israel’s “crimes in Gaza stop and food, medicines and fuel are allowed to reach its besieged population.”
Russia has publicly criticized Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, so some ships in the Red Sea are saying they have links with Russia in hopes of not getting targeted, Business Insider’s Matthew Loh reported on Monday.
Some other ships in the Red Sea are rerouting or identifying themselves as “All Chinese” to appear more sympathetic to Palestinians in Gaza, and, by extension, the Houthis.
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