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Does this viral clip show Israel-bound cargo ship after attack by Yemen’s Houthis?

Multiple X accounts with large numbers of followers posted old video

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Claim: A video shows a cargo ship bound for Israel attacked by Yemen’s Houthis in the Red Sea.

Fact: The video shows a vessel named Maersk Honam that caught fire on 6 March 2018. The blaze was not a result of any attack.

On 15 December 2023, X account @TheNewIndian_in posted (archive) a video of a cargo ship with plumes of smoke rising from it, stating:

“BREAKING: Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch attack on cargo ship bound for Israel in the Red Sea. Ship engulfed in flames, escalating tensions in critical maritime route. UK issues caution to vessels in the area.”

The post by @TheNewIndian_in included the hashtags “#HouthiAttack,” “#RedSea,” and “#Israel”.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check used keyframes from the video in a reverse-image search tool and found that the clip has no link to the recent development in the Bab al-Mandab Strait near Yemen.

Through Yandex Reverse Image Search, we found a link to a 6 April 2018 article on Maritime Bulletin titled, “Ultra Large Container Ship MAERSK HONAM major fire UPDATE Apr 01,” which contains clearer images of a part of the vessel in flames while it was in the Arabian Sea.

It also includes a YouTube video from 8 March 2018, titled “fire onboard the ultra-large containership Maersk Honam 7 March.”

Taking cues from this, we input the term “maersk honam fire” in Google and found that the images shown in the search engine’s knowledge panel matched the vessel in the viral video.

We also found a “statement on the investigation of the tragic fire on the Maersk Honam” from the Danish shipping company, officially known as A.P. Møller – Mærsk, in which the background reads as follows,:

“On 6 March 2018 while enroute in the Arabian Sea towards Suez, a major fire occurred in cargo hold no. 3 on our vessel Maersk Honam. The crew engaged in firefighting which included releasing the vessels’ CO2 system into the cargo hold. Regrettably, that did not stop the fire eventually resulting in five crew members tragically losing their lives. The vessel suffered extensive structural damage in the accommodation block and forepart of the vessel and was towed to Jebel Ali during the salvage operation.”

The video in question, therefore, does not show a cargo ship bound for Israel attacked by the Houthis in the Red Sea.

The video was also shared by two X accounts — @nexta_tv and @visegrad24 — with slightly different claims.

@nexta_tv wrote, “Yemeni Houthis attacked the container ship Maersk Gibraltar, which was allegedly en route to Israel.”

However, this is false since Maersk itself “denied” the Houthi claim. It said its ship — named Gibraltar — was targeted on 14 December as it was travelling from Oman to Saudi Arabia and “was not hit”, Reuters quoted (archive) a company spokesperson as saying. Its crew and the vessel were safe.

The missile “splashed harmlessly in the water” just near the “Hong Kong-flagged container”, The Washington Post reported (archive), citing the US Central Command (CENTCOM), according to whom the Houthis had “hailed” the vessel.

In a separate post, @visegrad24 wrote, “A Bulgarian cargo ship heading for Israel is on fire after it was struck by a missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.”

However, Ambrey — a British maritime security company — was quoted by Reuters (archive) as saying “a Malta-flagged, Bulgarian-owned bulk carrier was reportedly boarded” on Thursday near Yemen’s Socotra island in the Arabian Sea. It did not catch fire, rendering the claim false.

“The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency also sent an advisory saying it had received a report of a distress call from a vessel being boarded by unknown persons east of Bossaso, Somalia,” the publication reported.

Houthi attacks in Bab al-Mandab Strait

Yemen’s Houthis have attacked multiple cargo ships, including those carrying oil, in Bab al-Mandab Strait, “a narrow waterway that separates Yemen from East Africa and leads north to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, through which an estimated 10% of the world’s trade passes”, according to The Washington Post (archive). The strait links Europe and Asia.

The publication quoted (archive) Houthi ruling council member Mohammed Albukhaiti as saying, “Our war is a moral war, and therefore, no matter how many alliances America mobilizes, our military operations will not stop. Participating in a coalition to protect the perpetrators of genocidal crimes is a disgrace in the history of the participating countries.” The group was referring to Israel’s war against Hamas.

On 15 December, the British military’s UKMTO posted multiple updates — here, here, here, and here — and wrote that an explosion onboard resulted in a fire, which has now been extinguished.

“Attack occurred in the vicinity of the Bab El Mandeb, 30nm South West of port Mokha, Yemen. Crew and [the] vessel are reported safe at present,” the UKMTO wrote.

A few hours later, it said, “The vessel has cleared the area.”

Multiple outlets, including The Washington Post (archive) and The Associated Press (archive), reported on the attacks.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found that the video was posted by many X accounts with large numbers of followers such as, @MarioNawfal, @nexta_tv, and @visegrad24. It also appeared on YouTube here.

Israeli news outlet Ynet also carried a screenshot from the viral video as did Pakistan media channel 92 News and breaking news website BNN Breaking here, here, and here.

Geller Report (archive), a website run by far-right American commentator and conspiracy theorist Pamela Geller, also ran the same claim.

Conclusion: The video shows a vessel named Maersk Honam that caught fire on 6 March 2018. The blaze was not a result of any attack.


Background image in cover photo: Juho Luomala


To appeal against our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com

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