The Houthis targeted the Chinese oil tanker Huang Pu with ballistic missiles on Saturday, starting a fire on board, before the US military neutralized six Houthi-launched drones.

A Chinese-owned oil tanker was attacked off Yemen on Saturday by ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis, who have intensified strikes on Red Sea shipping, the US military said.

The Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned and operated Huang Pu issued a distress call but did not request assistance, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on the social media platform X early on Sunday.

“No casualties were reported, and the vessel resumed its course,” the statement said.

CENTCOM and the British navy’s United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) said that a fire had broken out on board the ship but was extinguished within 30 minutes.

The Marinetraffic tracking website later had the vessel sailing out of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden heading for its next port of call which, according to maritime security agency Ambrey, was New Mangalore in India.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which UKMTO said struck 23 nautical miles west of the Yemeni port of Mokha.

CENTCOM said that the Houthis had launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles in the Red Sea near the Huang Pu before a fifth hit the vessel.

“The Houthis attacked the MV Huang despite previously stating they would not attack Chinese vessels,” it said.

According to Ambrey, “the tanker’s registration details, including name and operator, had been changed as recently as February 2024.”

It had been registered in 2019 by British firm Union Maritime Ltd, Ambrey said, and another vessel affiliated with the same company had previously been targeted by the Houthis.

CENTCOM said that, following the attack on the Huang Pu, US forces engaged six drones launched by the Houthis, five of which crashed into the Red Sea.

The sixth flew into a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen, it said.

With AFP