The attack apparently targeting the Nissos Kea marks the first announced military action since a truce between the country’s warring sides expired earlier this month. This also again signals a potential danger to commercial vessels passing through or stopping in Yemen.
The attack happened in Ash Shihr, Yemen, near the town of Mukalla, about 585 kilometers (360 miles) east of the rebel capital of Sanaa, in territory held by pro-government forces for years.
The Nissos Kea’s owner, Athens-based Okeanis Eco Tankers Corp., said there were “two explosions caused by nearby drones” as it tried to load at the port. Ash Shihr Port has a crude oil pipeline with a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day.
“No explosions affected the vessel. All crew are safe and unharmed,” the company said. “There was no damage to the vessel and no pollution.”
Satellite data analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Nissos Kea off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden in international waters and sailing towards Oman on Saturday.
British Army Maritime Commercial Operations in the UK, which monitors maritime traffic in the Middle East, acknowledged “an incident” off Ash Shihr on Friday, but only said the vessel and its crew were in security. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet based in the Middle East said it was aware of the attack, but declined to comment further.
The Houthis called the attack a “warning strike”.
The government denounced the attack and said “all options are open to deal with this terrorist action”, and warned that it could negatively affect any continuation of the peace talks.
He also said Friday’s strike was the third in recent days by Houthi drones on navigation in their territory, after another ship was targeted on Tuesday and Wednesday evening in the port of Radum, in the part central Yemeni coast of the Gulf of Aden. International authorities have yet to acknowledge these strikes.
War has been raging since 2014 in Yemen between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces, backed by a coalition of Sunni Arab Gulf states.
The Iran-backed Houthis descended from the mountains in 2014, occupied northern Yemen and the country’s capital and forced the internationally recognized government into exile in Saudi Arabia.
Since then, more than 150,000 people have been killed in the violence and 3 million have been displaced. Two-thirds of the population receive food aid.
The initial two-month truce agreed on April 2 by the government and the Houthis has been extended twice, until October 2. Since then, the United States and the United Nations have blamed the Houthis for the failure of efforts to extend the new ceasefire.
One of the main obstacles to a truce is the use of Yemen’s resources. The Houthis argue that oil produced in Yemen should not be allowed to be exported by the cash-strapped government side.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.