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No, video shows small goods ship headed to Somalia on fire near Oman – not British oil tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea

IN SHORT: A video circulating on social media does not show a British oil tanker burning after a Houthi missile attack. It shows a ship carrying goods to Somalia that caught fire off the coast of Oman.

“British oil tanker ablaze off the coast of Hodeidah, Yemen, following a missile strike!” That’s the caption of a video doing the rounds on social media in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and elsewhere since December 2023.

The 10-second clip shows smoke and flames billowing from a ship floating in the sea.

The claim can also be seen here, here, here, here and here.

Yemen is a country on the western tip of the Arabian peninsula in the Middle East. It lies on the coast of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

One of its largest ports is the city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea.

Since 19 November 2023, Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea. The sea is an important global shipping route, connected to the Mediterranean Sea in the north via the Suez Canal. 

The attacks have included drone and missile strikes as well as hijacking. They’re part of an increase in conflict in the Middle East since the start of the Israeli war against Gaza in October 2023.

Ships hit in the attacks include commercial vessels registered in Malta, the Bahamas, Liberia and Norway.

Tankers are massive vessels that can carry up to 320 million litres of crude oil. When they crash, sink or spill, the oil they release into the sea and onto the shore causes serious damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods.

But does the video really show a British oil tanker ablaze in the Red Sea after a missile strike from Yemen? We checked.


Crew from India rescued off burning goods ship

Small text at the bottom of the video gives the X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram handles of the Royal Oman Police.

Oman, also a country in the south of the Arabian peninsula, borders Yemen to the east.

A search of the Royal Oman Police’s X account led us to the original video, posted on 23 December.

It’s described as showing a ship carrying goods to Somalia that caught fire off the Oman coast. On board was a crew of 11 people from India. All were rescued.

A report of the incident also appears on the Times of Oman website, also dated 23 December.

A closer look at the video shows that the burning ship is much smaller than – and of a different design to – any oil tanker. The size of the vessel is indicated by a vehicle that can be seen on its left side.

A comprehensive list of ships attacked from Yemen up to 31 December, after the claim first went viral, does not include a British oil tanker “set ablaze” in the Red Sea.

If an oil tanker had been set on fire by a Houthi missile strike, it would have made global headlines. But there have been no credible news reports of any such incident.

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