The Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants last month, has been turned into a tourist attraction for Yemenis who flock in dozens to tour it off the coasts of the Houthi controlled Red Sea port of al-Salif where the vessel is anchored.
Houthis welcome visitors to board the ship that they reach by small fishing boats.
Visitors are allowed only to tour the ship’s deck where they walk on large US and Israeli flags stretched on the deck’s floor, and take selfies on its deck.
Houthi moral songs are also played on loudspeakers mounted on the vessel’s towers.
Houthi media officer, Sameer al-Rabit, said the ship has turned into a tourist attraction.
The crew of the Galaxy Leader have been allowed “modest contact” with their families while various countries push for their release, the vessel’s owner said this week.
The Bahamas flagged car carrier was taken to the port of Hodeidah, and then to the nearby port of al-Salfi in the Houthi controlled north of Yemen after being boarded at sea on November 19 by commandos with the group.
The vessel’s crew is made up of nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The vessel is chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen.
The United States has blamed the Houthis for a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since war broke out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7. Three vessels were attacked in the Red Sea area on Sunday.
At an assembly session on Monday of the UN shipping agency’s highest governing body, the United States, the Bahamas and Japan called for the unconditional release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.
Japan’s delegation told the International Maritime Organization assembly that it “strongly condemns those acts which threaten the safety and freedom of navigation in that area.”