A chemical tanker hijacked by armed attackers on Sunday 26 November as it transited past the coast of northern Yemen was freed after a US Navy warship responded.
The vessel, Central Park, had received radio communications from Houthi rebels instructing it to divert to the port of Hodeida. The vessel ignored the instruction and shortly afterwards it was boarded by five armed individuals.
The crew issued a distress call and took refuge in the ship’s citadel. The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason responded to the distress call and 'demanded release of the vessel', US Central Command said in a statement.
'Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat,' the statement added. 'The Mason pursued the attackers, resulting in their eventual surrender.' The attackers, who have not been identified, were detained by the Navy. A DOD spokesperson said two days later that they appear to be Somali pirates.
Hours after the attempted hijacking, two ballistic missiles were fired from areas controlled by Houthi rebels 'toward the general location' of the USS Mason and the Central Park, landing in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles from the ships.
Earlier on Sunday, UK Maritime Trade Operations said that it had received a report of two black and white boats approaching another merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden 'in a concerning manner, with one small craft on each quarter'. The boats were said to be carrying eight people in military clothing. The reported position of this threat was about 40 nm to the southeast of the Central Park incident.
On Saturday 25, a container ship was hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean, causing minor damage to the vessel but no injuries, a US defence official said. The previous Sunday, car carrier Galaxy Leader was hijacked by Houthi rebels and taken to the port of Hodeida. The Central Park and the Galaxy Leader are both managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is owned by Israeli investors. The 22 members of the crew of Galaxy Leader are still being held in Yemen.