In a recent incident that underscores the escalating tensions in the Gulf of Aden, a second ship with ties to Israel was seized off the coast of Yemen before being released following the swift response of the USS Mason (DDG-87), a United States Navy warship.
This event marks the third attack in the region since the onset of the conflict between Hamas and Israel in early October.
The Seizure: USS Mason’s Intervention and Release of the Vessel
Flying the Liberian flag, commercial tanker M/V Central Park transmitted a distress signal, prompting the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason to intervene.
According to USNI News, citing Pentagon statements, allied vessels in the area were summoned to assist in the resolution.
The ship was managed by Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, sparking speculation about the motives behind the seizure.
On Nov. 26, the USS MASON (DDG 87), with allied ships from our coalition counter-piracy task force (TF 151), and associated aircraft responded to a distress call from the M/V CENTRAL PARK, a commercial vessel, that they were under attack by an unknown entity. Upon arrival,… pic.twitter.com/ASmM3b0xrf
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) November 27, 2023
Expressing gratitude to the coalition forces for their prompt response, Zodiac Maritime acknowledged the protection of assets in the area and the upholding of international maritime law.
“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard. The Turkish captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian, and Filipino nationals,” Zodiac Maritime’s statement read, quoted by Reuters.
The small chemical tanker transporting phosphoric acid was released following the intervention, highlighting the collaborative effort in ensuring maritime security.
Complexities in Attribution: Yemen’s Accusations and US Response
The situation in the Gulf of Aden remains tense, compounded by the aftermath of previous attacks.
The former government of Yemen, ousted by the Houthis in 2014, had attributed the seizure to the latter, but US officials have refrained from explicitly naming the attackers, further complicating the attribution of responsibility, as reported by Reuters.
Notably, an earlier incident saw the Houthis claiming the seizure of a cargo ship in the Red Sea, purporting it to be an Israeli vessel.
Houthi Missile Likely Did Not Target USS Mason, M/V Central Park, DoD Says – USNI Newshttps://t.co/NCcOt20wOz
— U.S. Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) November 28, 2023
Despite calls for its release, the ship remains docked at the port of Hodeidah in Yemen.
This initial seizure prompted the rerouting of two other vessels away from the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, reported by a British maritime security firm.
Such diversions inevitably extend the journey lengths of these vessels, adding complexities to maritime logistics.
Urgency for Resolution: Ensuring Stability in Vital Waterways
Adding to the intricacies, recent developments have tied the attacks to a broader conflict narrative.
A vessel linked to Idan Ofer, the brother of Eyal Ofer, fell victim to a drone attack, with US defense officials attributing the incident to Iran.
This incident further complicates the dynamics in the region, potentially deepening tensions among the involved parties.
The implications of these incidents extend beyond isolated attacks on vessels.
They cast shadows on maritime security in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, key global trade routes crucial for international commerce.
With vessels altering their courses and facing prolonged journeys, the economic ramifications become increasingly apparent, posing challenges to the efficiency of global trade networks.
The recurrence of such incidents underscores the urgency for a comprehensive resolution to the conflicts and tensions plaguing the region.
As accusations fly between various stakeholders and allegiances, the need for a clear and concerted effort toward de-escalation and diplomacy becomes more pressing than ever.
Unanswered Questions Surrounding the Central Park Incidents
Sal Mercogliano, a maritime professor at Campbell University, told USNI News about the perplexities encircling the attacks on the Central Park vessel.
The vessel, allegedly threatened on its way into the Red Sea and later attacked in the Gulf of Aden, raises eyebrows due to the striking coincidences surrounding these events.
Mercogliano questions the alignment of events, expressing skepticism over the alleged Somali pirates’ knowledge about Central Park‘s association with an Israeli businessman.
He highlights the challenge of identifying the vessel’s true ownership, often shielded by liability structures employed by companies.
While Somali piracy has seen a decline since 2017 in the Gulf of Aden, the recent attack raises concerns about a potential resurgence.
Resurgence of Somali Piracy and External Influences
The possibility of external instigation and funding for the Somali pirate attack on a vessel with Israeli ownership prompts queries about the motives behind these incidents.
Further questions emerge regarding the background of the suspected Somalians allegedly involved in the attack, with speculation arising about their residency in Yemen during the country’s turmoil and the implications thereof.
Moreover, a pressing concern remains about the course of action the US will take with the five suspected pirates.
Mercogliano recalls the rarity of piracy prosecutions and emphasizes the significance of this case in determining future legal proceedings.
Chinese Naval Presence
Additionally, the presence of three People’s Liberation Army Navy ships near the incident, which did not provide assistance, draws attention.
Mercogliano and others speculate on China’s role, highlighting their anti-piracy fleet’s limited engagement unless their own vessels are under attack.
Intriguingly, the absence of Chinese intervention raises queries about potential directives given to their forces, considering their occasional cooperation with other regional maritime forces.
In conclusion, the seizure and subsequent release of a second ship linked to Israel in the Gulf of Aden, coupled with previous attacks and their ramifications, highlight the volatility of the region.
The complexity of attributing responsibility, coupled with allegations linking incidents to broader geopolitical conflicts, underscores the challenges in ensuring maritime security.
Amidst these complexities, efforts towards conflict resolution and maintaining stability in these crucial waterways remain imperative for the global community.