TWO destroyers from the United States and Japan responded to a distress call on Sunday from the besieged commercial tanker M/V Central Park, which was the subject of a hijacking attempt.
USS Mason (DDG 87), one of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group that the US Navy deployed after the October 7 attacks in Israel, was conducting freedom of navigation patrols at the Gulf of Aden when they received the call for help from the crew of Central Park.
Also, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Akebono and a P3C patrol plane rushed to the site near Central Park.
Upon arrival, the US Navy and Japanese destroyers learned that pirates had already boarded the ship.
The coalition counterpiracy task force then demanded the release of the vessel. Five armed individuals disembarked from the ship and tried to flee using their small boat.
“USS Mason pursued the attackers, resulting in their eventual surrender. The crew of the M/V Central Park is currently safe,” the US Central Command (Centcom) sent in a statement.
While the US Navy was about to conclude their interdiction, around 1:41am Sanaa time Monday, Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen fired two ballistic missiles on the general location of USS Mason and M/V Central Park.
“The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately 10 nautical miles from the ships,” the US Centcom said. “There was no damage or reported injuries from either vessel during this incident.” Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, US Centcom commander, stressed the need for maritime domain security in the Gulf region.
Meanwhile, Japanese state TV quoted defense ministry sources as saying that Akebono helped in the interdiction. Under Japan’s anti-piracy law, the Japanese were allowed to fire warning shots only.
“The Japanese Defense Ministry has been on heightened alert in the Gulf of Aden since a Houthi rebel group in Yemen seized a cargo ship operated by a Japanese firm in the Red Sea on November 19,” the NHK reported.
Image credits: Zodiac Maritime via AP