Rubymar: Maritime Security incidents


The waterway connecting the Suez Canal and the Bab El-Mandeb Strait is a crucial maritime link between Europe and Asia. Due to increasing war risks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, this area has become a significant chokepoint for global shipping.

Amid the ongoing Gaza conflict, the Iran-backed Houthi group has declared its support for Hamas.

The Houthis have threatened to attack any ship passing through the Bab El-Mandeb Strait if it has connections initially said to Israel, and then linked to the USA, or the UK.

Since the hijacking of the Galaxy Leader, several ships have faced attacks, including being targeted by anti-ship missiles.

Notably, the General Cargo Ship “Rubymar” suffered severe damage due to two Houthi missile strikes on March 02nd, 2024. This incident marked the first reported Constructive Total Loss (CTL) during the crisis.

“Rubymar” – IMO: 9460784

In its last voyage, the bulk carrier “Rubymar” departed part laden with 21,999 metric tons of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer from Ras AL Khair, Saudi Arabia on February 08th, 2024, bound for Varna, Bulgaria, displaying the morning of February 27th, 2024, as the estimated time of arrival (ETA).

The “Rubymar” is a 19,420 GT open hatch general cargo vessel built in 1997. The vessel sails under the flag of Belize and is classed by Nippon Kaiji Kyokai. Ownership lies with Golden Adventure Shipping SA, registered in the Marshall Islands. Operation is handled by Blue Fleet Group, headquartered in Baabda, Lebanon. GMZ Ship Management Co SA of Beirut, Lebanon serves as the ISM manager. Protection and Indemnity (P&I) club details are currently unavailable. Previously confirmed coverage existed with Thomas Miller Specialty until February 20th, 2024, and the vessel has been listed on the Thomas Miller Specialty P&I Club website until recently.

The market value modelled by Skytek for March 06th was $5.8 million.

In Figure 1, Skytek plotted the AIS track of the vessel “Rubymar.” The track highlights two instances where the ship stayed adrift delaying entering the Red Sea.  On the evening of February 18th, the “Rubymar” was struck by two anti-ship missiles on its starboard side.  The attack caused a fire and significant water ingress, forcing the crew to abandon ship.

The 21 crew members and 3 armed guards abandoned the ship, rescued by the containership “Lobivia” (IMO: 9228564) en route from Hodeidah, Yemen, which transported them to Djibouti.

Figure 1 - AIS track for "Rubymar" until it was hit by a missile in the Red Sea

“RUBYMAR” – tracking the abandoned ship.

Following the deactivation of the ships’ AIS transponder, and without crew onboard, the abandoned vessel was drifting uncontrolled in the Red Sea carried by winds and current.

Skytek produced exclusive analysis, still tracking the abandoned vessel utilizing automated ship detection proprietary algorithms and high resolution optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, as detailed in the following paragraphs.

“RUBYMAR” – optical satellite imagery detection.

The first image was acquired for February 20th, two days after the ship was abandoned. In Figure 2, the acquired high resolution optical satellite imagery reveals the new location of the“Rubymar”. The ship is developing list to starboard and analysis highlights significant pollution oil sheen due to breach of the ship’s hull.

Figure 2 - Planet Labs satellite imagery, Skytek detects "Rubymar" adrift and leaking fuel into Red Sea

“RUBYMAR” – Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery detection.

Using Skytek’s proprietary ship detection algorithms, the vessel is detected in a new location in a February 28th (SAR) imagery, displayed for reference in Figure 3. The ship’s outline is clearly visible in the image, and its dimensions align perfectly with the “Rubymar” details stored in Skytek’s database, confirming it’s the same vessel.  Furthermore, the imagery reveals traces of oil pollution, which appear distinct on radar due to their different reflective properties, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3 - Skytek algorithm detection of "Rubymar" in Sentinel 1 SAR imagery of February 28th, 2024.

“RUBYMAR” – optical satellite imagery detection.

Later the same day, Skytek acquired a high-resolution optical imagery for the area where ship was detected in SAR.

The optical image for the morning of February 28th, revealed the ship “Rubymar” still afloat, trimmed by stern with its poop deck under water, and one mile north-east from the location detected by SAR, eight hours earlier, in Figure 3.

The change in the ship’s trim evidenced in the images of February 20th and 28th, indicate that the ship’s hull is breached, and water is flowing in.

Figure 4 - Planet Labs satellite imagery for "Rubymar" on February 28th, 2024.

“RUBYMAR” – Constructive Total Loss (CTL).

In a medium resolution optical satellite imagery, acquired for March 04th, 2024 at 06:52 UTC, Skytek captures the ship “Rubymar” nearly sunk, only with its bow pointing upwards and just above water. Sinking of the general cargo “Rubymar”, due to hull breached by two Yemen fired anti-ship missile makes this ship become the first CTL associated with the conflict in the Red Sea.

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