Israeli-related vessel seized by pirates off the coast of YemenNovember 26, 2023
A massive tanker ship likely owned by an Israeli billionaire was hijacked by pirates near Yemen on Sunday. The 475-foot Central Park, sailing under the Liberian flag, was seized in the Gulf of Aden, intelligence officials said Sunday. The Central Park’s listed owner is Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.
A crew of 22 was operating the Central Park as it sailed through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, according to Zodiac Maritime. The ship had turned off its Automatic Identification System tracker in an apparent ploy to avoid attack by pirates.
“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard,” Zodiac Maritime said in a statement. “The Turkish-captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals. The vessel is carrying a full cargo of phosphoric acid.”
There have now been three attacks on Israeli-linked ships in recent days near Yemen. The attack on the Central Park occurred near Aden, which is controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. The other two attacks were blamed on Iran and the Houthi rebels it supports in Yemen.
“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said after hijacking the Galaxy Leader last week. That ship is also likely owned by a different Israeli billionaire.
On Friday, the CMA CGM Symi was attacked by a drone sent from Iran, according to U.S. authorities. The Symi is also owned by an Israeli billionaire. No groups immediately claimed responsibility for the seizure of the Central Park.
“U.S. and coalition forces are in the vicinity and we are closely monitoring the situation,” an unnamed U.S. defense official told the Associated Press. “An unknown number of unidentified armed individuals” took the ship.
The seizure of the Central Park occurred during an official four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, in which the two groups have exchanged hostages.
Zodiac Maritime claimed the ship was owned by Clumvez Shipping, but official records show Zodiac as the owner. Two men who shared Eyal Ofer’s last name were listed as the current and former directors of Clumvez Shipping.