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UK government calls for release of hijacked Galaxy Leader

Galaxy Leader is being held in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen, according to the vessel’s Isle of Man-based registered owners

A growing chorus of governments linked to the hijacked car carrier Galaxy Leader have called for the vessel’s immediate release, but all have stopped short of detailing any potential response

THE UK government has joined US and Japanese counterparts in demanding the immediate release of the car carrier Galaxy Leader (IMO: 9237307), which was seized in the Red Sea on Sunday by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

A vessel of the same length with the same features can be seen anchored off Hodeidah on November 20. 

On Monday, Galaxy Maritime indicated Galaxy Leader was in this area. 

Galaxy Leader is beneficially owned by a unit of Israeli businessman Rami Ungar’s Ray Shipping Group, but the vessel is registered to an Isle of Man-based company, Galaxy Maritime.

“The United Kingdom condemns the unlawful seizure of Galaxy Leader by the Houthis in the Red Sea and we call for the immediate, and unconditional, release of the ship and its crew,” a UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“Iran has long provided military and political support to the Houthis. We have made it clear to Iran that it bears responsibility for the actions of its proxies and partners. Iran must actively restrain these groups to prevent the conflict escalating across the region,” the spokesperson continued. 

The US state department issued a similar denouncement of the hijack on Monday, stating that the action was “a flagrant violation of international law” and demanded the immediate release of the vessel.

The hijacking has already seen at least four ships divert from the Red Sea in response to the threat from Houthi rebels to attack more vessels linked to Israel.

The political response, however, is going to be complex. So far, UK, US, Japanese and Israeli statements have stopped short of detailing any potential action. 

The Japanese government is gathering information through related ministries and agencies, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday. Galaxy Leader is on a long-term time charter with Japan’s NYK Car Carriers. The country is engaging with the Israeli government as well as the Houthi group, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran to work toward the release of the vessel, he said.

The vessel’s crew members are from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Mexico and the Philippines.

“The UK is committed to ensuring the safety of shipping in the region, including through our contribution to the International Maritime Security Construct and Combined Maritime Forces,” said the UK Foreign Office.


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