A pure truck/car carrier owned and managed by Ray Car Carriers has reportedly been seized by Houthis in the Red Sea.

The 5,100-ceu Galaxy Leader (built 2002), which is operated Japan’s NYK Group, was en route from Turkey to India.

Yemeni army spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a televised statement that “the [Houthi] naval forces carried out a military operation in the Red Sea, which resulted in the seizure of an ‘Israeli’ ship”.

The Israeli Defence Forces confirmed the attack on the PCTC on its X account, but insisted the ship “is not Israeli”.

“The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence,” the Israeli military added.

Ray Car Carriers is registered in the Isle of Man and is owned by Israel’s Abraham “Rami” Ungar.

The company has a fleet of 65 car carriers and two 2020-built VLCCs. It has a further eight LNG-capable car carriers on order, according to industry databases.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said it “strongly condemns the Iranian attack against an international ship”.

“The ship, owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese company, was hijacked on Iranian whim by the Houthi militia in Yemen,” the office said in a statement.

“On board the ship are 25 crew members of different nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans.”

No Israelis were on the ship.

“This is another act of Iranian terrorism which expresses a leap forward in Iran’s aggression against the citizens of the free world, and creates international implications regarding the security of global shipping lanes,” the prime minister’s office said.

NYK said on Monday that it was informed of the seizure on Sunday evening.

The ship was en route to India and no cargo was on board.

On Monday morning, NYK set up a crisis management centre at its Tokyo head office to gather information and handle the incident.

“As the vessel’s charterer, we are prioritising the safety of the 25 crew members,” the company added.

Gaza-linked threats

Security company Ambrey quoted a maritime source in Hodeidah stating that the vessel was taken to Salif port.

Ambrey assessed that it is plausible the ship is currently located in Salif, as prior incidents indicate Houthi-seized vessels were held there.

The crew was reportedly “under investigation” by the Houthis.

Ambrey noted that the vessel turned off its AIS 300 nautical miles (555 km) before entering the Yemeni exclusive economic zone and approaching the Bab-el-Mandab strait.

Another maritime security company, Diaplous Group, reported that the Iranian-backed rebels presumably used a helicopter raid to seize the vessel and several armed individuals rappelled down to the deck.

Yemeni army spokesperson Yahya Saree confirmed the seizure of the ship. Photo: Armed Forces of Yemen

“If confirmed, this shows a sharp shift in Houthis’ modus operandi, demonstrating the group’s advanced capabilities,” Diaplous added.

The reported hijacking comes just days after the group threatened to target Israeli vessels because of the war in Gaza.

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi had said the Iran-backed militia was monitoring the Red Sea for Israeli-owned tonnage, with or without Israeli flags.

“Our eyes are open to constant monitoring and searching for any Israeli ship,” he said in a speech broadcast by the rebels’ Al-Masirah TV station, according to the New Arab website.

“The enemy relies on camouflage in its movement in the Red Sea, especially in Bab-al-Mandeb, and did not dare to raise Israeli flags on its ships… and turned off identification devices.”

Al-Houthi said his forces would “search and verify the ships that belong to him [Israel], and we will not hesitate to target them, and let everyone know that he is afraid”.

The Houthis have declared themselves part of the “axis of resistance” of Iran-affiliated groups and have launched drones and missiles at Israel since the Hamas attack on 7 October that sparked the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

A Ray Car Carriers car carrier survived unscathed following an attempted attack in 2021, as TradeWinds reported at the time. The 7,700-ceu Hyperion Ray was approached by two small fast attack vessels near Fujirah, but the vessels departed before any further escalation.

This story has been amended to reflect that Ray Car Carriers is owned by Abraham “Rami” Ungar.