Did the Houthis sink the cargo ship Rubymar?

By February 22, 2024 International Politics

We came across the following claim across multiple accounts in posts on the social media platform X/Twitter:

The claims each feature a 24-second-long video of a ship sinking with added audio of a man speaking in Arabic, followed by music featuring Arabic lyrics. Given that the video appears to be taken at open sea, the audio does not seem to be native to the video.

Each posts contains a caption that suggests the video shows the sinking of the British cargo vessel Rubymar, which was attacked by the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group.

The Houthis released a statement on 19 February stating that the Rubymar had been targeted by them in an attack at the Bab el-Mandeb strait and was at risk of sinking.

It was later reported that the crew had been forced to abandon the ship and that Houthi representatives issued statements that the ship had sunk .

Images in news reports, such as in this BBC article, appeared to show a vessel that was similar to that in the images in the video. The vessel was described as being ‘down by the stern’. We did not, however, find any evidence that the vessel had sunk.

Data up to Wednesday, 21 February, published on the BBC factchecking service, BBC Verify, continued to show the vessel in a similar state, still afloat but with its stern being low in the water.

Several False Origins

When we conducted a reverse image search of stills from the Twitter posts, we found a number of results that matched the sinking ship in the video, but some did not match the information in the others.

One 2018 report from an Azerbaijani news site referred to the ship as an Iranian merchant ship that sank in the Caspian Sea, while a Kyrgyz news report from 2018 used the image in a report about a cruise ship that capsized in Thailand.

We did not find information about these events that corroborated the use of the image in these reports.

To confuse matters further, we found other posts on Twitter from 24 January 2024 containing shorter versions of the clip with the same audio, which predates the attacks and evacuation of the Rubymar.

These posts referred to incidents in the Gulf of Aden, but did not specify the ship involved.

Atlantik Confidence

With further searches, we found a report in the online Turkish news site Deniz Haber that referred to a ship called the M/V Atlantik Confidence, with images that matched those in the Twitter posts.

The Atlantik Confidence, a Turkish-owned vessel, had suffered an onboard fire off the coast of Oman while transporting steel construction cargo from Turkey to Oman. It was later abandoned by its crew.

The Turkish news report referred to a legal battle in UK courts between the owners and insurers of the Atlantik Confidence over claims that the ship had been sunk intentionally by the owners.

Details in these reports were corroborated by other Turkish and Gulf Arab online news sites, which specified the ship as having caught fire in late March 2013, and having sunk in early April 2013.

The details were also corroborated in a 2014 article on the site of the solicitors for the charterers of the ship in a legal case dealing with arbitration claims resulting from the sinking of the ship.

Videos on YouTube and TikTok with descriptions indicating the sinking of the Atlantik Confidence also appear to show the same ship as those in the Twitter posts, albeit from different angles.

Sinking the Claim

It is therefore false that the ship Rubymar has, at the time of writing, been sunk by the Houthis.

While this may change in the future, the videos currently being posted on Twitter accompanying claims that the Houthis sank the Rubymar instead show the Atlantik Confidence, a ship that sank in 2013.

This claim was also investigated and found to be false by Misbar and Newsweek.

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