Oil tanker with 22 Indians onboard hit by missile, Navy sends help
Jan. 28, 2024

Why in news?

  • In a series of attacks on commercial vessels in the western Arabian Sea by the Houthi rebels, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Marlin Luanda came under a missile attack.
    • The vessel had 22 Indian and one Bangladeshi crew members on board.
    • While the ship was learnt to have caught fire and reported damage, no casualty or injury was reported at the time.
  • It prompted a quick response from the Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, which was deployed in the Gulf of Aden.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Red Sea
  • Houthis
  • Trouble in Red Sea and impact on India

Red Sea

  • About
    • Red Sea is narrow strip of water extending southeastward from Suez, Egypt, to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
    • Basically, it is a narrow inland sea between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
      • The Red Sea separates the coasts of Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea from those of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
    • The Gulf of Aqaba, a northeastern extension of the sea, reaches southern Israel and southwestern Jordan.
  • Significance
    • The Red Sea contains some of the world’s hottest and saltiest seawater.
    • It is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the world, carrying maritime traffic between Europe and Asia.
  • Significance for India
    • Freight rates for Indian shipments headed to Europe and Africa could surge as much as 25-30 per cent if there is disruption along this route.
      • For India, the Red Sea trade route is the shortest trade route for ships moving from Asia to Europe.
      • India is heavily reliant on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait for its crude oil, LNG imports and trade with parts of West Asia, Africa, and Europe.
    • This route is vital for 30 per cent of global container traffic.


  • About
    • The Houthis are a Shiite Muslim sect and political and military organization that emerged in Yemen (which is predominantly Sunni) in the 1990s.
      • Named after the Houthi tribe, they are Zaydi Shias.
      • Zayadism is a sub-sect of Shia Islam and it believes in following the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad’s family, as the political leader of the state.
    • The Houthis are also known as Ansar Allah, which translates to "Supporters of God".
  • Involvement in civil war of Yemen
    • The Houthis are one side of the Yemeni civil war that has raged for nearly a decade.
    • Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sanaa.
    • By early 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states and with U.S. support, was launching airstrikes against the Houthis, who are backed by Iran.
    • A ceasefire was finally signed in 2022. It lapsed after six months but the warring parties haven’t returned to full-scale conflict.
  • Houthis attacking Red Sea ships
    • The Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen have been attacking ships in the Red Sea in response to Israel's military campaign in Gaza.
    • The Houthis support Hamas, and vowed to target vessels they believe are heading to and from Israel.

Trouble in Red Sea and Impact on India

  • Trouble in Red Sea
    • Attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea since November 2023 by the Houthi militia of Yemen have increased.
    • It has turned the quickest marine route linking Asia with Europe through the Suez Canal unsafe.
    • It has forced freighters to take a longer transit around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip, making shipments both dearer and longer to deliver.
  • Status
    • Almost 90% of western hemisphere cargo, both inbound or shipped from India, that used to go through the Red Sea is now getting re-routed through the Cape of Good Hope.
    • The remaining 10% of Indian import or export cargo is either not moving or using a transit facility.
    • Container Corporation of India said that about 25% of its containers are being held back by Indian exporters as everybody is hoping the situation will normalise shortly.
  • Impact on India
    • These developments could make imports costlier and call for better inventory management.
    • The Red Sea crisis could come in the way of any plans to reduce pump prices of petrol and diesel.
    • Freight rates for impacted routes have increased.
      • War risk premiums in the Red Sea have been partially contributing to the freight-rate increases for the relevant routes.
    • Commodities are the worst affected whether it be chemicals, plastic, petrochemicals, because margins are not there to absorb the hike in freight.