Oil tanker hit by missile after transiting Red Sea — Houthis claim responsibility

Children walk near a billboard bearing the image of targeting ships, on the day Yemen’s Houthi-run forces targeted an American ship in the Red Sea, on a street in Sana’a, Yemen, on Jan. 10, 2024.
Mohammed Hamoud | Getty Images

An oil tanker operated on behalf of Trafigura was struck by a missile on Friday after transiting the Red Sea, a company spokesperson told CNBC in statement.

The Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker vessel, was struck by the missile in the Gulf of Aden. Firefighting equipment on board is being used to suppress a fire in one of the cargo tanks, the spokesperson said.

“We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully,” Trafigura said. “Military ships in the region are underway to provide assistance.”

Houthi militants claimed responsibility for the attack, describing the vessel as a “British oil ship.” Trafigura said the vessel is flagged under the Marshall Islands.

The militants used a “number of appropriate naval missiles, the strike was direct and resulted in the burning of the vessel,” the Houthis’ military spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a statement.

Houthi militants in Yemen have attacked commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea since November in support of Palestinians. The U.S. and UK began a series of airstrikes against the militia on Jan. 11 aimed at deterring the Iranian-backed group.

Houthi militants fired a ballistic missile at the U.S. Navy destroyer Carney in the Gulf of Aden earlier on Friday, according to U.S. Central Command. The missile was shot down by the Carney. No injuries or damage were reported, according to CENTCOM.

Several of the world’s major oil tanker companies paused traffic toward the Red Sea immediately after the U.S. and Britain began launching airstrikes against the Houthis earlier this month.

U.S. crude oil on Friday settled at $78.01 a barrel to close out its best week since Sept. 1. The global Brent benchmark settled at $83.55 a barrel, posting its best week since Oct. 13.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for March was last up 74 cents, or 0.96%, at $78.10 a barrel. The Brent March contract was trading at $83.73 a barrel, up $1.30 or 1.58%.

Oil futures have not responded dramatically to escalating tensions in the Middle East so far because there has not been a major disruption to supply. Analysts have warned that a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Iran could send prices significantly higher.

Robert Thummel, portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital, told CNBC on Thursday that the market is not pricing enough geopolitical risk into crude prices. Thummel said WTI should really be trading at $85 right now given the tensions in the Middle East.

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