Seized Galaxy Leader ship in Yemen's Hodeidah port area...

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    Seized Galaxy Leader ship in Yemen's Hodeidah port area -owner

    LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The Galaxy Leader commercial ship was "illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter" on Nov. 19 and is now in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen, the vessel’s owner said on Monday.

    "All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel," Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd, owner of the pure car carrier Galaxy Leader, said in a statement.

    "The company, as a shipping concern, will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation."

    Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis released video footage on Monday showing armed men dropping from a helicopter and seizing a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea.

    The United States denounced the ship's seizure as a breach of international law and demanded the immediate release of the vessels and its crew.

    "The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law," U.S. State Department spokeman Matthew Miller told a briefing. "We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew and we will consult with our allies and U.N. partners as to appropriate next steps."

    The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader's crew is made up of nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The vessel is chartered by Japan's Nippon Yusen.

    "Owners and managers believe the seizure of this vessel represents a gross violation of freedom of passage for the world fleet and a serious threat to international trade," Galaxy Maritime said.

    It added that the "key concern at this time is the safety and security of the 25 crew members currently being held by the perpetrators of this criminal act".

    Reporting by Jonathan Saul; additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and Daphne Psaledakis from Washington; editing by Christina Fincher and David Gregorio

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