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MANILA, Philippines – At least two Filipino seafarers have been confirmed safe following a hijacking incident in the Gulf of Aden, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed on Monday, November 27, citing a report from the United States Naval Institute (USNI).
United States officials said a US Navy warship responded to a distress call from M/V Central Park, and the cargo ship is now safe.
“The Department of Migrant Workers welcomes a report from the US Naval Institute that at least two Filipino seafarers on board a hijacking incident in the Gulf of Aden are now safe and accounted for,” the DMW said in a statement.
According to a report from USNI News, five people boarded and attempted to take control of Central Park on Sunday, November 26, in the Gulf of Aden, which is off the coast of Yemen.
The report said the crew barricaded themselves in an armored panic room, which led to the hijackers’ failure to seize the crew.
The hijackers then boarded a small boat and headed toward Yemen, but were chased by a US warship and eventually surrendered. US officials did not identify the attackers.
There were 22 crew on board. Apart from the Filipinos, there were also Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, and Georgian nationals, as well as a Turkish captain.
The DMW found that there were at least two Filipinos among the ship’s crew upon checking with the manning agency involved. The department also sought a full incident report from the vessel’s manning and shipping agencies, and has begun reaching out to the seafarers’ families.
The hijacking of Central Park came just days after a hostage-taking of a vessel in the Red Sea where 17 Filipino crew members were taken hostage by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The incident is also the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since a brutal war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas broke out on October 7.
The DMW is looking into the possibility of declaring certain areas in the Red Sea as high-risk zones for Filipino seafarers.
Central Park, a Liberian-flagged vessel, is managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel’s Ofer family.
It carried a full cargo of phosphoric acid, which is mostly used for fertilizers. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com