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Global shipping on edge after Houthis seize Israeli vessels

Nov 28, 2023

Sanaa [Yemen], November 28: On November 19, Yemeni Houthis seized a Japanese-operated cargo ship in the Red Sea, with armed men jumping onto its deck from a helicopter before hoisting Palestinian and Yemeni flags.
According to LSEG data, Galaxy Leader is owned by a company registered under Isle of Man-headquartered Ray Car Carriers, a unit of Tel Aviv-incorporated Ray Shipping, which belongs to Abraham Ungar, an Israeli businessperson.
The Marine Traffic tracking site said the empty car carrier left Korfez in Turkey and was on its way to Pipavav in India when it went offline southwest of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The vessel is currently moored in the port of Hodeida in Yemen.
The ship's operator, Japan's Nippon Yusen, said it had set up a taskforce to collect information on the 25-person crew, who are from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Mexico.
Though no Israelis were on board, Israel called the incident an "Iranian act of terrorism" and said it would have "grave consequences" for international maritime security.
In the months before the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7, the number of hijackings had been increasing after a lull in the Arabian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman, mainly due to US-Iranian tensions and restrictions on the trade of Iranian oil.
"This is part of a tit-for-tat war between the US, UK and Iran, and could draw other countries in. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy want to influence the geopolitical scene and show they control the Straits of Hormuz," Dimitris Maniatis, COO of private maritime security company Seagull Maritime, says.
In April and May, Iranian naval forces seized three internationally flagged oil tankers in response to US seizures of tankers allegedly carrying Iranian oil as part of sanctions enforcement operations.
In another incident on November 26, the US Navy reportedly captured five pirates who had attempted to hijack the Central Park, a tanker run by an Israeli businessman, in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia.
The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center noted 115 incidents of global piracy and armed robbery attacks in 2022, less than the previous year.
Half of the 2022 attacks on ships took place in Southeast Asia, with the Straits of Singapore particularly vulnerable. Other areas of concern include South and Central America and the seas around Nigeria, Ghana and Angola.
And experts expect such incidents to continue.
"We expect to see this happening again. They showed they can do it, and they seek media attention. They have info on Israeli ships. They know what they are doing. Israeli-connected vessels will be targets. It's very simple to track," Maniatis says.
In fact, Houthi rebel leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said the group was looking for Israeli vessels in the Red Sea - even those without Israeli flags.
Source: Times of Oman