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Houthis claim first casualty as Rubymar sinks two weeks after attack

UK links to sunken bulker Rubymar confirmed by Department for Transport, but ownership details and insurance cover details remain unclear

Holed by two Houthi missiles two weeks ago, the 28-year-old Rubymar has finally sunk leaving a fuel oil slick and 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate to clean up. The sunken bulker presents an environmental risk and a navigational hazard to shipping

THE Belize-flagged bulker Rubymar (IMO: 9138898), which was hit by two Houthi missiles last month while transiting the Red Sea, has finally sunk.

According to US military Central Command, the 28-year-old ship that had been taking on water since a Houthi missile penetrated the hull flooding the engine room, sank at approximately 0215 hrs on Saturday.

Rubymar was carrying 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser from the United Arab Emirates to Bulgaria and had been chartered by the Saudi Arabian commodities and mining company, Ma’aden.

The ship has already caused a 29 km slick from leaking fuel, but the cargo now presents an environmental risk in the Red Sea, said US Central Command. It also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway.

What remains unclear is who will be liable for any damage caused by the casualty.

The bulker’s registered managers are Lebanon-based GMZ Ship Management Company, however, the ultimate owners are a Lebanese entity controlled by the Captain Wael Chahadah family group of companies.

Belize-flagged Rubymar was targeted by the Houthis on the basis of its UK links, which appear to have been based on an entry in the Equasis shipping database that records a Southampton address for its registered owner Golden Adventure Shipping S.A.

That UK link, however, remains contentious.

The Southampton address recorded by Equasis is a residential block of flats and Golden Shipping S.A. is not registered in UK Companies House.

According to the UK Department for Transport there are limited links to the UK, however the DfT have declined to elaborate on those links.

Golden Adventure Shipping S.A. was registered in the Marshall Islands on May 4, 2006.

Golden Adventure S.A. has historical ties with Brilliant Marine S.A., an entity ultimately controlled by the Chahadah family of Lebanon. The entity was dissolved in 2015, but the director Capt Wael Chahadah, was given as the point of contact for Golden Adventure Shipping SA in an email sent to Lloyd’s List Intelligence in 2020.

Rubymar’s technical and ISM manager is GMZ Ship Management Company S.A. — a company that is registered in Honduras but operates out of Lebanon.

Neither GMZ or the ship’s chartering broker, Blue Fleet Group of Lebanon have been able to confirm Rubymar’s current insurance arrangements.

Rubymar was until last summer covered by fixed cost P&I provider British Marine, however that arrangement was terminated last year according to British Marine.

Lloyd’s List has approached 23 separate providers of P&I, all of which have confirmed that they do not cover Rubymar.

The Belize flag administration has not responded to requests for more information regarding the vessel’s insurance cover.

Following the February 18 Houthi missile strike on Rubymar, Blue Fleet Group had signed a Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract but had apparently been unable to convinced a tug to help tow the vessel to safety.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi had stated that the Iran-backed group would only allow a salvage operation to take place if humanitarian aid is sent to Gaza. 

Initial plans to tow the vessel to Djibouti and then Aden were abandoned after permission was denied in both cases by the port authorities. Blue Fleet chief executive had said that he was waiting for US navy assistance to help move the vessel to Jeddah prior to the vessel sinking.

“The United States and coalition partners remain committed to safeguarding freedom of navigation, striving to enhance the safety and security of international waters for merchant shipping,” Centcom said in a tweet announcing that Rubymar had sunk.

Rubymar’s crew of 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, four Filipinos and three Indians were safely evacuated after leaving the vessel at anchor on 19 February in the Bab el Mandeb strait.


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