Houthis Take Responsibility for Missile Strike on Oil Tanker Following Red Sea Transit

A missile struck an oil tanker operated on behalf of Trafigura in the Gulf of Aden after it transited the Red Sea, as confirmed by a company spokesperson to CNBC. The vessel, Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker, is currently dealing with a fire in one of its cargo tanks, being addressed with firefighting equipment on board.

Trafigura is closely monitoring the situation, staying in contact with the vessel, and dispatching military ships in the region for assistance. Despite Trafigura stating the vessel is flagged under the Marshall Islands, Houthi militants claimed responsibility for the attack, referring to the vessel as a “British oil ship.”

The militants utilized naval missiles, resulting in a direct strike and the vessel catching fire, according to Yahya Saree, the Houthi military spokesperson. Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in support of Palestinians have escalated since November. The U.S. and UK initiated airstrikes against the Houthis on January 11.

Earlier on the same day, Houthi militants fired a ballistic missile at the U.S. Navy destroyer Carney in the Gulf of Aden, which was successfully intercepted. No injuries or damages were reported. Major oil tanker companies temporarily halted traffic towards the Red Sea after the U.S. and Britain commenced airstrikes against the Houthis.

Despite these geopolitical developments, oil futures, including U.S. crude settling at $78.01 per barrel and the global Brent benchmark at $83.55 per barrel, have not responded dramatically due to the absence of a significant disruption to the oil supply. Analysts caution that a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Iran could substantially increase oil prices. Robert Thummel, a portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital, noted that the market is not factoring in enough geopolitical risk, suggesting that WTI should be trading higher, possibly around $85, given the tensions in the Middle East.

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