The use of modern social media outlets is being exploited by the Houthi militia who have hijacked car carrier Galaxy Leader (IMO 9237307) and taken it to an anchorage off Hodeidah.
It used to be unusual for hijackers to broadcast live from aboard a captured ship. Times have changed. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have decided to release a steady stream of video content from the vessel. The militant group has welcomed new media influencers on board. While the visitors seem to be having a good time, less attention is being paid to the state of the crew and the financial implications for ship stakeholders.
One group of youngsters filmed themselves dancing in victory on the top deck, waving Yemeni flags and chanting. Another offered some qat (a mild narcotic often chewed by males in the region) to a crewmember in the engineering control room, then toured the vessel’s car decks before stopping off to smoke from a hookah.
YouTuber Mustafa Almomri, who has three million subscribers, broadcast a comedy routine, first from the beach and then from the vessel itself. The pro-Houthi humourist said that, after God sent the Houthis such a large Galaxy, perhaps the next ship would be made out of Lay’s Potato Crisps.
The ship has also become a tourist attraction. One video showed at least six people ascending and descending ladders at once, without lifejackets.
By early this week there were so many guests aboard Galaxy Leader that the crowd on the top deck could be seen on high-quality satellite imagery provided by Maxar.
The Galaxy Leader was hijacked by a Houthi assault team on November 19th. The ship is operated by Isle of Man-based Ray Car Carriers, which has ownership ties to an Israeli shipping magnate.
There are 25 crewmembers being held in captivity by the Houthis, of whom 17 members of are Filipino, with the remaining eight being Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian and Mexican citizens. There are no Israeli nationals aboard, according to the Israeli government.
Shipping journalists have noted that, if this were an aircraft, the situation would have generated major headlines around the world. Because it is a ship, no-one seems to be taking much notice.
2002-built, Bahamas-flagged, 48,710 gt Galaxy Leader is owned by Galaxy Maritime Ltd-IOM care of manager Ray Car Carriers Ltd of Douglas, Isle of Man. ISM manager is Stamco Ship Management Co Ltd. It is entered with West P&I (Claims Team Greece) on behalf of Galaxy Maritime Ltd.