Ships redirect following Houthi hijack of vessel in the Red Sea

Houthi military helicopter hovers over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship as Houthi fighters walk on the ship's deck in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023. Houthi Military Media/Handout via REUTERS

Two commercial ships recently changed their route in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden after another ship in the same group was taken over by Houthi rebels from Yemen. Ambrey, a British maritime security company, provided shipping data and insights that demonstrated the link between the vessel seized by the Houthis and the diverted ships.

On Sunday, Israel expressed alarm over the Houthi’s hijack of a British-owned, Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, calling it an “Iranian act of terrorism” that could have an impact on international maritime security. Tehran and the Houthis confirmed the ship’s capture but recognized it as Israeli.

Japan’s chief government spokesperson confirmed on Monday that the ship Galaxy Leader, which was operated by Nippon Yusen, had been taken into custody. Japan asked the Houthis and the governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran for help in order to expedite the crew’s and ship’s prompt release.

Ambrey stated that Glovis Star and Hermes Leader, two more ships under the management of Ray Car Carriers, changed their itineraries on Sunday. Hermes Leader veered off course and ended up returning to its original location in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, after changing its course south of Nishtun in Yemen. This diversion resulted in an additional 1,876 nautical miles of travel and a minimum four-day disruption to business. AIS ship tracking data reveals that Glovis Star floated in the Red Sea for a few hours before starting up again.

According to a statement released on Monday by Galaxy Maritime Ltd, the registered owner of Galaxy Leader, military personnel “illegally boarded the vessel via a helicopter” on November 19. The company declined to comment further, referring to the diversions of the other two vessels as a “political issue.”

The Houthi leadership declared last week that they intended to attack Israel once more, possibly focusing on Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. According to an advisory released by the U.S. Marine Administration (MARAD), the Galaxy Leader was hijacked about 50 miles west of the port of Hodeidah, which is under the control of the Houthis. Ships passing through the area were urged to proceed with caution.

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