A Trafigura-operated tanker on the Red Sea caught fire in the Gulf of Aden after being struck by a missile late Jan. 26, a spokesperson from the commodities trading group said. The missile was launched by Yemeni Houthi militia, according to media reports.
This marks the most recent escalation in a string of attacks claimed by Houthi forces in their “blockade on Israeli navigation in the Red and Arabian seas until a ceasefire is achieved in Gaza,” Ameen Hayyan, spokesperson of the Yemeni Armed Forces shared to X, formerly known as Twitter, Jan. 26.
Trafigura identified the petroleum products tanker as the Marlin Luanda. The tanker was carrying a naphtha cargo bound for Singapore, according to market sources and data provided by S&P Global Commodities at Sea.
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“We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully,” the Trafigura spokesperson said in a statement Jan. 26. “Military ships in the region are underway to provide assistance.”
Firefighting equipment on board has been deployed to suppress the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side of the ship, Trafigura said in its statement.
The attack could further widen the East-West naphtha spread, which was at $33/mt on Jan. 26, continuing a steady widening trend from Jan. 3 when it was at $15/mt, according to data from Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Backwardation in the paper market strengthened on the day, as brokers pegged the front-month February-March Mean Of Platts Japan naphtha swap spread at $16/mt on Jan. 26, up $1.50/mt from the previous day’s Asian close. This was the highest since March 18, 2022, when the time spread stood at $21.50/mt, marking a near two-year high, Platts data showed.
Additionally, clean tankers’ freight rate for Europe-bound voyages hit its highest level in almost four years on Jan. 25, as a result of the Red Sea crisis, which has prompted shipowners to take longer voyages via the Cape of Good Hope amid increased seaway aggression.
Just hours prior to the attack on Jan. 26, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported two missiles exploding in the water southwest of Aden, Yemen. No damages or injuries were reported, with the vessel continuing to its next port of call.
All other vessels have been advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to the agency, according to a notice by the UKMTO.