Houthis strike UK-linked commercial ship MV Marlin Luanda in Gulf of Aden, INS Visakhapatnam responds

Team India Sentinels Saturday 27th of January 2024 03:24 PM

The burning MV Luanda as seen from INS Visakhapatnam, as the Indian Navy destroyer approached it responding to its mayday call. (Photo via special arrangement.)

New Delhi: The Houthi group Ansar Allah launched a missile attack on an oil tanker, MV Marlin Luanda, in the Gulf of Aden, on Friday night. The strike hit one of the ship’s cargo tanks and set it alight. The fire was contained after a nightlong effort.

The Marlin Luanda is registered under Oceonix Services Limited – a United Kingdom-based company, and sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands. The UK government has condemned the attack and stated that attacks on commercial shipping are “completely unacceptable” and that Britain and its allies “reserve the right to respond appropriately”.

Ansar Allah claimed responsibility for the attack and said their naval forces had carried out an operation targeting what they described as the “British oil tanker Marlin Luanda” in the Gulf of Aden. The US military confirmed that the Houthis hit the tanker with an anti-ship ballistic missile, and naval ships responded to its distress signal.

The incident occurred 60 nautical miles southeast of Aden, according to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO). The United States Central Command said that its forces had conducted a strike at 3.45am local time (12.45am GMT) Saturday “against a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into the Red Sea and which was prepared to launch”. They “destroyed the missile in self-defence”, Centcom said.

INS Visakhapatnam responds

The Indian Navy said its guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, which was in the vicinity, responded to a distressed call from the merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, on the night of January 26 after it was hit by a missile. The Navy’s spokesman, Commander Vivek Madhwal, said, “INS Visakhapatnam, which was in the Gulf of Aden, responded to a distress call from MV Marlin Luanda.”

The Navy also said INS Visakhapatnam augmented the firefighting efforts on Marlin Luanda. It said after a request from the MV Marlin Luanda, INS Visakhapatnam deployed its nuclear, biological, chemical defence (NBCD) team along with firefighting equipment to assist the merchant vessel’s crew.


The MV Marlin Luanda on fire after being hit by a Houthi missile. (Photo via special arrangement)


The ship was carrying 87,000 metric tonnes of Naphtha. Its crew comprised 22 Indians and 1 Bangladeshi.

This is not the first time that INS Visakhapatnam responded to attacks on commercial ships in the region. Earlier this month, the Navy’s formidable destroyer responded to a drone strike on merchant ship MV Genco Picardy, as India Sentinels had reported.

The Indian Navy has been the first responders to several attacks on merchant ships since December 2023. First, it responded to a mayday call by Malta-flagged MV Ruen when it was hijacked by Somali pirates. However, as the ship was already under pirate control, the Navy could not do much keeping in mind the safety of the crew. Days later, the Navy again responded to a drone attack on a India-bound chemical tanker, MV Chem Pluto. Earlier this month, the Navy foiled a hijack attempt on a Liberia-flagged merchant ship, MV Lila Norfolk in northern Arabian Sea.

Due to rising attacks and piracy attempts on commercial ships in the region, the Navy recently stepped up its surveillance and patrolling in the northern and central Arabian Sea. It has deployed several top frontline warships, drones, and aircraft for the purpose, as India Sentinels had reported.

This is the latest attack on commercial shipping by the Houthis in and around the Red Sea. The group claims that it is targeting vessels in the region in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel has launched a massive military campaign following Hamas’s October 7, 2023, raid inside Israel. The US and UK have launched airstrikes on Houthi targets in response, supported by several other countries.

Since November, the group has launched dozens of attacks on commercial vessels travelling through the Red Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The UKMTO has warned other vessels to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.


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