A roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) vessel loaded with 4 500 units destined for India’s Port of Pipavav was hijacked by Houthi rebels from Yemen as the ro-ro passed through Bab al-Mandab Strait, the narrowest point between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The Galaxy Leader, with 25 crew on board from the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Mexico and the Philipines, was on route from Turkey through the Suez Canal when the Iranian-backed rebels ab-sailed from military helicopters onto the ship’s deck.
The vessel, leased to Japanese-owned NYK Line and registered in the Bahamas, is owned by Ray Car Carriers, an Isle of Man company which is 50% owned by Israeli businessman, Abraham Rami Ungar.
Since the hijacking, Israel’s government has stated that the incident is another example of Iranian aggression against Jewish and western interests.
Vessels rounding Yemen’s “Horn of Grief” opposite the coastal border of Eritrea and Djibouti have been warned about the increased threat of piracy and seaborne attacks in the Al-Mandab Strait.
International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) and its operational arm, Coalition Task Force Sentinel, recommend that ships sail as close to the African coast as possible and that voyages near Yemeni water should be avoided.
This is especially applicable by day, the IMSC said, as vessel identification at night is more difficult for potential attackers.
The Times of Israel has reported that a Houthi military official, major general Ali Al-Moshki, has said: “Israel ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere…and we will not hesitate to take action.”
The Galaxy Leader was reportedly 'escorted' by rebels to the Port of Hodeidah, north of the Strait.