A ship carrying 21,000t of fertiliser sank in the Red Sea in the Middle East on Saturday (March 2) after being hit by a missile in February.

According to the US military, the UK-owned ship Rubymar was initially struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18, after which it began taking on water before eventually sinking this past weekend.

The US military blamed the Houthi rebel group in Yemen, which has a coastline on the Red Sea, and said that the sinking poses a risk of environmental damage, as well as an impact risk for other vessels.

In a post on X, US Central Command (CENTCOM) – which oversees US military operations in the region – said: “On March 2 at approximately 2:15a.m, MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged , UK-owned bulk carrier, sank in the Red Sea after being struck by an…anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18.

“The ship has been slowly taking on water since the unprovoked attack,” CENTCOM said.

The 171m-long ship had departed the port town of Ras al Khair on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia on February 8. It had travelled around the Arabian peninsula and into the red sea before the alleged missile strike occurred.

It had been due to arrive at the port of Varna in Bulgaria on February 27.

CENTCOM said: “The approximately 21,000t of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertiliser that the vessel was carrying presents an environmental risk in the Red Sea. As the ship sinks it also presents a subsurface impact to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway.

According to the US military, the Houthi rebels “pose a heightened threat to maritime activities”.

Back in January, the United Nations said that attacks against shipping in the Red Sea by Houthis are “devastating for global trade and supply chains, already reeling under the impacts of the war in Ukraine and climate change-linked conditions in the Panama Canal”.

Houthi rebels control large parts of Yemen, including the Red Sea coast.

Since November, following the beginning of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels have intensified attacks against ships heading for the Suez Canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, claiming they have been targeting ships destined for Israeli ports.