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Zodiac’s tanker escapes pirate clutches off Somalia Coast

November 28 ------ A chemical tanker flying the Liberian flag, initially reported as targeted and boarded by pirates on Sunday morning off the coast of Somalia, has been successfully freed, the U.S. Central Command confirmed. The 22 crew members, who were onboard the Liberian-flagged Central Park (IMO: 9725823), owned by UK-based Zodiac Maritime, are confirmed to be safe and unharmed.

The report comes contrary to initial speculations linking the attack to Houthi rebels in an Israeli-related context, as was the case with the recent seizure of NYK’s chartered car carrier Galaxy Leader. As previously reported, Yemeni Armed Forces have taken responsibility for the seizure, claiming that its naval forces had captured an ‘Israeli ship’ and taken it to the Yemeni coast. The move is seen as a retaliation against Israel in relation to its ongoing war against Hamas which, as warned by the U.N, has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Eyal Ofer controlled Zodiac Maritime released an official statement on Sunday evening, providing assurance that the tanker, along with its crew and cargo, emerged from the incident unscathed.

At approximately 6 am local time on Sunday, the Turkish master of Central Park issued a distress call, reporting a pirate attack while traversing the International Recommended Transit Corridor, situated around 54 nautical miles off the Somali coast. The pirates utilized skiffs to approach the vessel and successfully boarded, prompting the 22 crew members to seek refuge in the ship’s secure citadel. “UK-based Zodiac Maritime is pleased to confirm that its managed vessel the Liberian flagged chemical tanker CENTRAL PARK (IMO: 9725823) is safe and all of the crew, the vessel, and cargo are unharmed,” the company said in a statement to Offshore Energy. “The suspected pirates who boarded the vessel earlier today have now left the vessel.”

Zodiac Maritime said that its team in London, UK has been working closely with international naval coalition partners in the region, and thanked the coalition forces for prompt response. “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, coalition elements demanded the release of the vessel. Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat. The MASON pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender. The crew of the M/V Central Park is currently safe,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The US Navy has reportedly apprehended the five individuals who are being held for questioning. “At approximately 0141 on Nov. 27 Sanaa time, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the USS MASON (DDG 87) and M/V Central Park. The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles from the ships. The USS MASON (DDG87), which is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was concluding its response to the M/V Central Park distress call at the time of the missile launches. There was no damage or reported injuries from either vessel during this incident.”

“Maritime domain security is essential to regional stability,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM commander. “We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes.” The attack comes at heightened security fears within the maritime sector especially due to warnings from the Houthi forces that they would target ‘all ships belonging to or dealing’ with Israel in the Red Sea until the ‘aggression against Gaza stops’.

In a separate incident reported over the weekend by Reuters, a container ship managed by an Israeli-controlled company was reportedly hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean, causing minor damage. Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS), owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, confirmed the incident, stating the vessel continues its planned voyage with the crew safe.



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