Iranian ‘spy’ ship may have targeted seized Galaxy Leader


Published in TradeWinds

Behshad cargo ship replaced a similar vessel in 2021 that was damaged in a suspected Israeli limpet mine attack

The car carrier Galaxy Leader was seized by Yemen’s Houthi rebels after it steamed past an Iranian “spy ship” with its AIS switched off, according to tanker tracking groups.

The Behshad is registered as a cargo vessel but is believed to be gathering intelligence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran near the strategically important Bab el-Mandeb strait that controls access to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, according to Dryad Global.

Tanker Trackers, which monitors oil shipments, said the 5,100-ceu Galaxy Leader (built 2002) was seized after passing the Behshad while steaming dark for security reasons.

The boarding and detention of the car carrier is a step change for the Houthi rebels, which points to backing from their sponsor, Iran, according to analysts.

The Houthis have been behind seven attacks or harassment of Western shipping since 2019 but nothing on the scale of the Galaxy Leader attack, according to a database of state-backed maritime incidents compiled by researchers from the American Enterprise Institute.

The seizure of the ship by helicopter-landed forces is a first for the rebel group that controls swathes of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

Analysts said it marks a significant broadening of hostilities in the region and the threat to shipping from the largely localised fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“The spy ships are widely known also to help the Houthis in Yemen,” Claire Jungman of the United Against Nuclear Iran group told The National, a daily paper based in the United Arab Emirates.

“It is very possible that the Behshad could have played a role in the hijacking, given its presence and activities in the region.”

The Houthis seized the pure car/truck carrier off the Yemen coast as it travelled south through the Red Sea from Turkey to India. It has been moved off the port of Hodeidah, according to satellite images.

The Bahamas-flagged ship is controlled by Isle of Man-registered Ray Car Carriers, which is owned by Israeli Abraham “Rami” Ungar.

It is operated by Japan’s NYK Group and has 25 crew members made up of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, Mexicans and others.

The 23,200-dwt Behshad (built 1999) is said to have replaced the Saviz, which was damaged by a limpet mine in 2021 in a suspected Israeli operation.

The Saviz was said to have been stationed in the Red Sea to support Iranian commandos sent to escort commercial vessels, according to Iranian state media.










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