Vessel Seized in Red Sea Chartered by Japanese Shipping Line

image is BloomburgMedia_S4DJ2PDWLU6801_20-11-2023_04-41-57_638360352000000000.jpg

A container ship waits to unload cargo in this aerial photograph taken above the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California. Photographer: Bloomberg Creative Photos/Bloomberg

Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen KK said a vehicle carrier that it chartered was seized in the Red Sea, following an earlier announcement on the incident by the Israeli government. 

The vessel, called Galaxy Leader, was chartered by Nippon Yusen, a spokesperson for the company said Monday, confirming an earlier report by Nikkei.  

Israel said on Sunday that Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had hijacked a cargo ship in the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The incident will revive fears the Israel-Hamas war could lead to major shipping disruptions in the Middle East, something which hasn’t happened so far.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the seizure of what it said was a vessel owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese firm, without naming either of those. 

The vessel is owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar, according to a person familiar with the matter. It is registered in the UK, the person said, asking not to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the matter. Calls for request to Ungar’s mobile phone went unanswered.

For more stories on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have threatened to strike Israel since its war against Palestinian militant group Hamas began in early October, and has launched failed missile attacks that were believed to have targeted Israel. Sunday’s incident marks the first big escalation in the threat posed by Houthis against global maritime shipping since the latest conflict began. 

A spokesman for the group on Sunday said it would continue to target Israeli ships until the military operation against Hamas ends, calling on other countries to withdraw citizens working on such vessels.

The rebel group is based in Yemen, allowing it to stage attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. In January 2022, Houthis hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo ship carrying supplies for a Saudi Arabian hospital.

Houthis are believed to be getting training, technical expertise and increasingly sophisticated weapons — including drones, ballistic and cruise missiles — from Iran.

Netanyahu’s office blamed Sunday’s attack on the government in Tehran, which it said is endangering global shipping lanes. Iran hasn’t commented on the incident.

The Israeli government said the ship’s 25 crew members include people from Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Philippines and Mexico. Israel’s army said the vessel was on its way from Turkey to India at the time of the attack. 

(Updates with confirmation from Nippon Yusen in first two paragraphs)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Alisa Odenheimer, Galit Altstein , Shoko Oda


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