A bulker has “sustained serious damage” after a direct strike by an unidentified object in the Red Sea, maritime security firm Diaplous reported on Wednesday.

The Liberia-flagged vessel is “getting water into the engine compartment”, Diaplous said without identifying the vessel.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations later said the ship had been “struck on the stern by a small craft” which is described as “white in colour and 5 to 7 metres in length”.

The incident was said to have been reported on VHF radio at 7.10 am local time while the ship was sailing southbound about 70 nautical miles (130 km) south-west of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, in the southern part of the Red Sea.

Diaplous described the reliability of the source reporting the strike as “high”.

Since mid-November, dozens of vessels have been attacked in the same region by Yemen’s Houthi rebels who have been seeking to disrupt Israeli trade and put pressure on Israel and its Western allies to cease a military crackdown on the Hamas Group in Gaza.

Carried out via drones, missiles, attempted boardings and one hijacking, the strikes have resulted in the death of three seafarers and 10 Houthi fighters, the sinking of the 32,200-dwt bulker Rubymar (built 1997) and the abduction of 25 crew members on the 5,100-ceu Galaxy Leader (built 2002).

US military forces in the area have repeatedly claimed to have intercepted and destroyed Houthi sea drones in the area. None of these devices, however, have so far been known to have directly hit a ship yet.

As a result of the Houthi threat, transits through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal have dropped by about half from levels before the crisis, to about 35 a day, according to the Portwatch data.

Hopes for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory have been rekindled after the UN Security Council on Monday approved a resolution to that effect.

According to wire reports, on Wednesday the US will examine a response by Hamas to the ceasefire plan, which is promoted by Washington.

However, companies steering clear of the Red Sea should not be expected to resume transits there quickly, even if a ceasefire is eventually agreed in the Gaza strip, Frontine’s chief executive officer Lars Barstad said on Wednesday.

Advisory and broking company WTW stated recently that attacks are highly likely to continue over the next six months as the Houthis have sufficient stockpiles of weaponry, despite US airstrikes on its positions within Yemen that have caused dozens of deaths.