Sri Lankans among crew members rescued after fatal Houthi attack on ship off Yemen

The INS Kolkata, deployed for Maritime Security Operations

The INS Kolkata, deployed for Maritime Security Operations, arrived at the scene of action and rescued 21 crew members, including one Indian national.

Two Sri Lankans are among the 21 crew members rescued by the Indian warship INS Kolkata from the cargo ship ‘True Confidence’ which was attacked by a missile by Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden, according to the Sri Lanka Navy.

The navy spokesman Gayan Wickremasuriya further confirmed that one of the rescued Sri Lankan nationals had sustained injuries in the attack.

India’s navy evacuated all 20 crew from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea on March 7, after a Houthi attack killed three seafarers in the first civilian fatalities from the Yemeni group’s campaign against the key shipping route.

The Iran-aligned militants fired a missile at the Barbados-flagged, Greek-operated ‘True Confidence’ on Wednesday about 50 nautical miles off the port of Aden, setting it ablaze.

In a statement, the owners and manager said all 20 crew and three armed guards on board were taken to hospital in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa by an Indian warship.

Two of the dead were Filipino nationals, while the third was Vietnamese, the owners and managers said, expressing condolences to families. Two other Filipinos were also severely injured.

Images released by the Indian Navy showed a helicopter winching crew members from a small life raft in choppy seas and taking them to a naval ship.

Some wounded were shown lying in the bottom of a navy lifeboat sent to assist. They were carried on stretchers onto the ship and were shown later with heavily bandaged limbs as they were evacuated to the Djibouti hospital.

“The vessel is drifting well away from land and salvage arrangements are being made,” the companies said in the statement.

The Houthis have kept up a relentless campaign of attacks on vessels in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes since November, in what they say is solidarity with the Palestinians during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

“The loss of life and injuries to civilian seafarers is completely unacceptable,” leading global shipping associations said on March 7.

“The frequency of attacks on merchant shipping highlights the urgent need for all stakeholders to take decisive action to safeguard the lives of innocent civilian seafarers and put an end to such threats.”

The Houthis have used an array of sophisticated weapons, including ballistic missiles and “kamikaze drones”, despite retaliatory US and UK-led strikes on their bases in Yemen aimed at crippling their ability to attack.

Mr Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the leading seafarers union, also called for better protection.

“No delivery window is worth the loss of seafarers’ lives,” he said. “We call on the industry to divert ships around the Cape of Good Hope until safe transit through the Red Sea can be guaranteed.”

Around 23,000 ships a year pass through the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal, accounting for around 12 percent of global trade.

Taking the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa adds about 10 days to the journey, delaying supply chains and pushing up costs.

For those still risking the shorter seven-day route via the Red Sea, the cost of insuring a vessel has risen by hundreds of thousands of dollars since the attacks began.

The True Confidence was sailing from China to Jeddah and Aqaba with a cargo of steel products and trucks.

The vessel is owned by Liberia-registered True Confidence Shipping SA and operated by Greece-based Third January Maritime. There is no current connection with any US entity, the companies said.

(With inputs from Reuters)