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Release May Be “Imminent” for Crew of Car Carrier Seized by Houthis

Galaxy Leader crew Houthis
Photo released by Houthis last month showing a commander meeting the crew of the Galaxy Leader

Published Dec 29, 2023 2:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Nearly six weeks after 25 seafarers were detained when heavily armed Houthi rebels stormed their vessel, the car carrier Galaxy Leader (17,000 dwt), there are hopeful signs of progress for the release of the crew. The ship’s registered owner Galaxy Maritime made its first public statement in weeks and is promising to meet repatriation costs for the crew.

Galaxy Maritime, a company managed by Ray Car Carriers, released a statement saying, “that it is encouraged by reports from the Philippines that release of their 17 seafarers held by the Houthis is imminent. Owners and ship managers had been hoping to secure the release of the crew members in time for return to their families for the Christmas holiday.”

The majority of the crew is from the Philippines along with other citizens of Bulgaria, Mexico, Romania, and Ukraine. Authorities in the Philippines have been working behind the scenes attempting to gain the release of the crewmembers from the Galaxy Leader. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. even deferred his trip to the UAE for the COP28 climate conference in order to give his full attention to negotiating the release of Filipino crewmembers of the car carrier Galaxy Leader.

“Despite all efforts and those of all the authorities represented by crew members from Bulgaria, Mexico, Romania, Ukraine, and the Philippines, our valued seafarers remain in the hands of the Houthis,” Galaxy Maritime said in its statement. The company further says, “Given the considerable costs in repatriation of the 25 seafarers, owners are committed to meet the expenses associated with repatriation and support any operational issues involved.”

The company has repeatedly appealed for the release of the crew saying the crewmembers are innocent parties caught in the fight. They previously said “there was nothing more to be achieved,” by continuing to hold the crew of the vessel. Israel has said none of its citizens were working aboard the vessel.

After the Galaxy Leader was seized and taken to Yemen, the Houthis released a video showing one of their commanders “welcoming” the crew as “guests” to Yemen and promising that they would be cared for while in the country. However, the families and the shipping company have said they have been given little access or communication with the crewmembers. 

The ship has become a tourist attraction in Yemen with multiple videos released showing people photographing the ship or even boarding the vessel. While there have been several other attempts either with small boats or radio communications to divert merchant ships to Yemen, the Galaxy Leader remains the only vessel captured by the Houthis. The United States however reports that over 100 missiles and drones have been launched attacking commercial shipping in the southern Red Sea.