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HomeInformationGalaxy Leader hijacking - Implications and International Reactions

Galaxy Leader hijacking – Implications and International Reactions

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait (“Gate of Tears” in Arabic) is a vital link in the maritime trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

This 30 km strait separates Yemen and Djibouti connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

As per the Middle East Institute, this fragile region has been plagued for decades by high levels of violence and instability within and across borders and has served as a launching pad for terrorism, piracy, human trafficking, and smuggling operations.

In a brazen act of maritime aggression that’s sent ripples across the globe, on the 19th of November 2023, Yemen’s Houthi rebels hijacked the Bahamian-flagged car carrier Galaxy Leader. Below is the video released by the Houthi Rebels (Courtesy : Daily Mail)

Here are some key points of the incident, the background of the ship and its crew, the geopolitical context, and the broader implications for international maritime operations.

The ship which is reportedly affiliated with an Israeli tycoon and operated by Japan’s NYK Line, was intercepted and hijacked. This hijacking has thrust the 25-strong crew, hailing from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico, and Romania, into an unwanted geopolitical fray.

The Houthis, an Iran-aligned militia, justified their actions as a reprisal against Israel for its campaign against Hamas, declaring all ships with Israeli ties as legitimate targets.

The footage released by the Houthis chillingly captures armed assailants rappelling from a helicopter onto the ship, asserting their dominance over this crucial maritime passage.

The Galaxy Leader is a car carrier ship with a capacity of 4,500 units and was en route to India when the incident happened. It has been reported to be currently stationed at the port of Hodeidah in Yemen and is said to be incommunicado.

This incident has not only raised the alarm for marine traffic in the region but has also prompted diversions of other ships managed by companies with Israeli connections.

Reuters reported that two commercial ships also managed by Ray Car Carriers, Glovis Star, and Hermes Leader, diverted their sailing routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, quoting shipping data and British maritime security company Ambrey.

Reuters further quoted Japan’s top government spokesperson confirming the capture of the Galaxy Leader, while adding that Japan has appealed to the Houthis while simultaneously seeking the help of Saudi, Omani, and Iranian authorities to work toward the swift release of the ship and its crew.

The US State Department has labeled the seizure a “flagrant violation of international law,” urging immediate release and hinting at collaborative measures with UN partners.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has squarely blamed Iran for the incident, categorizing it as an act of terrorism with implications for international maritime security. Meanwhile, Iran has distanced itself, emphasizing the independence of regional resistance movements.

The hijacking has broader implications for marine underwriters, highlighting the risks associated with Israeli ship ownership. It underscores the need for heightened vigilance and potentially redefined risk assessments for ships with Israeli links.

This event has not only showcased the Houthis’ military reach but has also spotlighted the fragile nature of international shipping lanes amid regional conflicts. The world watches as efforts to resolve this crisis unfold, hoping for the safe return of the crew and the restoration of safe passage through one of the world’s most strategic maritime routes.

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  1. When British and USA forces hijack a ship, it is described as a legitimate seizure.
    The Houthis have the right to support Palestinians as long as USA and allies support the criminal govt of Israel with threats, arms and ammunitions.


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