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Incident Type: Hijacking
Location: Hodeidah, Yemen
Incident Date: 19 Nov. 2023, 12:00 UTC
Lat/Long:14° 49' 60.00" N–41° 55' 0.00" E
The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) has reported an incident occurring 50 nautical miles west of Hodeidah, Yemen. The Company Security Officer (CSO) has reported a loss of communication with the vessel, which is suspected to have been boarded by unauthorized individuals. The CSO has also reported that the vessel has been moved to Hodeidah.
Update 1: Further reporting has indicated this was a hijacking of the Bahamas-flagged vehicle carrier GALAXY LEADER (IMO: 9237307) by Houthi rebels. The vessel is affiliated with Abraham “Rami” Ungar, an Israeli businessman, and the Houthis have stated they took the ship and crew as hostages because of its connection to Israel; warning they would target more ships linked to or owned by Israelis. The Israeli government denounced the seizure as an “Iranian act of terror” and said it was a “very grave incident of global consequence.”
Associated Press has confirmed that twenty-five crew members have been taken hostage.
The vessel was transiting from Korfez, Turkey and was in-route to Pipavav, India when the incident occurred. The vessel’s AIS was reportedly turned off at the time of the boarding.
The seizing of the GALAXY LEADER was a relatively sophisticated operation involving the use of a helicopter. According to U.S. officials, the rebels descended on the ship by repelling down from a helicopter, a tactic known as fast roping. This is a method of inserting personnel into a specific area where a helicopter cannot land. It requires a high level of training and coordination, as well as specialized equipment.
Fast roping is usually employed by special forces or law enforcement units in hostile or urban environments. It is not clear how the Houthis acquired the helicopter and the skills to execute this maneuver, but it may indicate that they have received assistance from their Iranian backers or other sources.
This is the first known instance of the Houthis using a helicopter to board a ship, and it demonstrates their increasing capabilities and willingness to challenge the international maritime security in the Red Sea and beyond. Most Houthi maritime attacks thus far have involved drones, rockets, or mines.
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