The Seizure of the Galaxy Leader: A Complex Maritime Incident Unraveled
In a surprising turn of events, the whereabouts of the Galaxy Leader, a pure car carrier vessel, have become the center of international concern. The vessel’s owner, Galaxy Maritime Ltd, revealed on Monday that it had been “illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter” on November 19 and is currently situated in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen.
Communication with the vessel was abruptly lost, leaving many questions unanswered. Galaxy Maritime Ltd, registered in the Isle of Man, released a statement expressing their concern but opted not to comment further on the political or geopolitical situation surrounding the incident.
The United States swiftly denounced the ship’s seizure, categorizing it as a blatant breach of international law. The U.S. State Department, represented by spokesman Matthew Miller, called for the immediate release of the vessel and its diverse crew.
“The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law,” Miller declared during a briefing. “We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and will consult with our allies and UN partners to determine appropriate next steps.”
The Galaxy Leader, bearing the flag of the Bahamas, has a crew comprising nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico, and Romania. The vessel is chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen. Galaxy Maritime emphasized that the seizure is seen as a significant violation of freedom of passage for the world fleet and a grave threat to international trade. The paramount concern remains the safety and security of the 25 crew members currently held by the perpetrators of this criminal act.
Why Did the Houthis Hijack the Ship?
The Iran-backed Houthi militants claimed responsibility for the ship’s hijacking, asserting that it was linked to Israel. They vowed to target ships in international waters connected to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel’s campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” declared the Houthis in a statement.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, further elaborated online, stating that the Israelis only understand “the language of force.” He emphasized that the detention of the Israeli-linked ship is a practical step demonstrating the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging a sea battle.
“This is the beginning,” Abdul-Salam added, hinting at potential escalation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office initially blamed the Houthis for the attack on the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, describing it as a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire. The office clarified that no Israelis were on board during the incident.
A video released by the Yemen-based Houthi militant group through their TV channel, Al Masirah, claimed to show armed men descending from a helicopter and seizing the ship bound for India in a crucial Red Sea shipping route. Israel countered this, asserting that the seized Galaxy Leader ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated.
Israel characterized the incident as an “Iranian act of terrorism” with potential repercussions for international maritime security. The Houthi militants, aligned with Tehran, acknowledged seizing a ship in the area but insisted it was Israeli.
The video footage, showcasing around 10 armed men descending onto the ship’s deck, appeared to be primarily shot through head cameras. It documented the armed men taking control of the bridge from the crew members, with later segments showing small boats maneuvering around and alongside the captured vessel.
As the international community grapples with the complexity of the situation, the fate of the Galaxy Leader and its crew remains uncertain. The incident underscores the fragile nature of maritime security and raises concerns about the potential impact on global trade and diplomatic relations. The world watches closely as efforts are made to address this maritime crisis and ensure the safe release of the seized vessel and its crew.