British-owned cargo vessel attacked in Red Sea

The cargo ship Jigjiga seen in the Gulf of Aden on January 17 (Getty Images)
The cargo ship Jigjiga seen in the Gulf of Aden on January 17 (Getty Images)

A UK-owned cargo vessel travelling through the Red Sea on Tuesday has been attacked, maritime authorities have said.

The ship was targeted west of Hodeida in Yemen just after midnight, the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Associated Press reports suspicions have fallen on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The UKMTO said the ship’s master was "aware of a small craft on his Port side" before a projectile was fired at the ship.

No crew were injured in the attack and the vessel sustained small damages to its bridge windows, but the vessel was deemed safe to continue its journey.

Private security firm Ambrey said the vessel is a Barbados-flagged, British-owned cargo ship, according to reports by AP.

On Monday, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons the UK will, if necessary, not hesitate to respond again “in self-defence” to Houthi’s in Yemen.

He was updating MPs after the UK and the US took part in joint airstrikes against 36 Houthi rebel sites in Yemen on Saturday.

Mr Shapps said the attacks were in line with international law and in self-defence, and had targeted “three military facilities” hitting “11 separate targets”, identified following “very careful analysis”.

Since November, rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel's offensive in Gaza against Hamas.

But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

In recent weeks, the US and the UK, backed by other allies, have launched airstrikes targeting Houthi missile arsenals and launch sites for its attacks.

An air assault Friday in Iraq and Syria targeted other Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan.

The US military's Central Command separately acknowledged an attack Monday on the Houthis, in which they attacked what they described as two Houthi drone boats loaded with explosives.