Video footage released by Yemen’s Houthi rebels purports to show the boarding and hijacking of a Ray Car Carriers vessel in the Red Sea.
The footage appears to show that the hijacking was carried out by helicopter, a tactic that security experts said is new to the Houthis but bears the hallmarks of Iranian vessel seizures.
While the video is undoubtedly produced by the rebel group as a propaganda tool and its details could not be verified, TradeWinds has decided to publish excerpts because it provides insight into the threat faced by shipping in the Middle East.
The video shows a helicopter landing on or hovering inches over the upper deck of the 5,100-ceu Galaxy Leader (built 2002) as militants armed with assault rifles sweep towards the bridge at the bow.
As they enter, the gunmen hold their weapons directly at the seafarers on the bridge, who hold up their hands, with one ducking.
While the faces of the crew are blurred, the video leaves little doubt of the harrowing ordeal they faced.
The video then shows militants securing vehicle decks, before cutting to the Galaxy Leader under the escort of several military-style fast boats.
Security company Ambrey said the Palestinian and Yemeni flags were raised on the car carrier.
“This was a highly sophisticated operation in which an Israeli-linked vessel without an active AIS signal was seized by the militant group,” Ambrey said.
It was “a modus operandi previously only observed by Iranian forces in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian/Persian Gulf”.
As TradeWinds reported over the weekend, the Houthis seized the pure car/truck carrier as it travelled off Yemen’s coast from Turkey to India.
The militants said they targeted the vessel because of its links to Israel.
The Bahamas-flagged ship is controlled by Isle of Man-registered Ray Car Carriers, which is owned by Israeli Rami Ungar.
It is operated by Japan’s NYK Group and has 25 crew members made up of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans and others.
The incident stoked fears that the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza could spread to the wider Middle East, affecting shipping.
“The government of Japan absolutely condemns such an act,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the hijacking as an “Iranian act of terror”.
Gary Dixon contributed to this story.