Action taken by US Navy forces operating off the coast of Yemen have liberated an Israeli chemical products tanker, the 19 998-dwt Central Park (IMO 9725823), which had become the latest Israeli-linked ship to have been seized by members of the Houthi rebel movement.
Central Park is managed by Zodiac Maritime, a company operated by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer. The tanker was operating with its Automatic Identification System (AIS) turned off in an effort of trying to avoid being targeted as it transited the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
However, the crew did manage to trigger the vessel’s distress signals which alerted US military in the area.
Central Park is carrying a full cargo of phosphoric acid (used mostly for fertilisers). The vessel has a crew of 22 seafarers from Bulgaria, Georgia, India, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam. There were no injuries reported among them.
The seizure of the tanker follows another Israeli car carrier vessel, the Galaxy Leader, that was seized by Houthi forces and forced to sail into the Hodeidah port in Houthi-occupied Yemen.
US military forces, including the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Mason, which was monitoring the area, responded immediately to the distress signal and on approaching the tanker, the five Houthi personnel on board abandoned the Central Park and attempted to flee in their small boat.
The destroyer gave chase and forced the Houthi’s to surrender and be taken into custody, the US Navy said on Sunday.
Although US Naval authorities did not identify the attackers, they did confirm that missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen which fell short by about 10 nautical miles from the Mason.
On Monday, the Pentagon said the seizure of the Central Park may have been by Somali pirates, not Houthis. “We’re continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali,” said Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder. “Clearly a piracy related incident,” Ryder added.