Hijacked Car Carrier Becomes a Tourist Attraction for Houthi Influencers

Houthi social media influencers dance atop Galaxy Leader's top deck (Twitter)
Houthi social media influencers dance atop Galaxy Leader's top deck (Twitter)

Published Nov 28, 2023 11:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

It used to be unusual for hijackers to broadcast live from aboard a captured ship, but in the age of social media, Yemen's Houthi rebels have decided to set a new trend. A steady stream of video content from the seized car carrier Galaxy Leader has been popping up on social media, and it appears to show that the militant group is welcoming guests and having a good time - though whether the crew feels the same way is another matter, as they and their ship are being held hostage.

Groups of Houthi youths and social media influencers have been visiting Galaxy Leader as a photo-shoot opportunity. One group recently filmed themselves dancing in victory on the top deck, waving Yemeni flags and chanting. Another offered the narcotic qat (a natural product with amphetamine-like effects) to a crewmember in the engineering control room, toured the vessel's car decks, and smoked a hookah. 

The ship has become something of a tourist attraction, drawing boaters who want to examine the ship and take photos. In one remarkable video, a group of new guests attempted to climb the pilot ladder en masse, with at least six people ascending and descending at once (without lifejackets). 

There were so many guests aboard Galaxy Leader on Monday that the crowd on the top deck could be discerned from space, journalist Christian Triebert noted, drawing on high-quality satellite imagery provided by Maxar. 

Galaxy Leader was forcibly hijacked by a helicopter-borne Houthi assault team on November 19. The ship is operated by Isle of Man-based Ray Car Carriers, a firm with ownership ties to an Israeli shipping magnate. Houthi leaders have promised to target Israel-linked shipping in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza. 

17 members of the Galaxy Leader's crew are Filipino, and the remaining eight are Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian and Mexican citizens. There are no Israeli nationals aboard, according to the Israeli government. Houthi representatives have made assurances that the seafarers will not be harmed.