Houthi rebels release South Korean and Saudi Arabian vessels after 45 hours

Woongjin G-16. Credit: Woongjin Development

Three vessels that were seized by Houthi rebels have been released, along with their crew, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on 20 November 2019.

The vessels, comprising a grab dredger, Woongjin G-16, and two tugs, Woongjin T1100 and Rabigh 3, were seized by the Iran-backed rebels off Yemen about 21:50 h (Yemen time) on 17 November.

Woongjin G-16 and Woongjin T1100 belong to South Korean dredging contractor Woongjin Development, while the 1987-built Rabigh 3 is owned by Petro Rabigh, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Saudi Aramco.

According to MOFA, Woongjin G-16 and Woongjin T1100 each had one South Korean crew member and two foreign crew members, while Rabigh 3 had 10 foreign crew members.

MOFA said, “The vessels and the crew members were released at dawn on 20 November and departed for Jizan Port, Saudi Arabia, about 18:40 h [Yemen time] on 19 November, or about 00:40 h South Korean time on 20 November.

“We are, in co-operation with the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korea Coast Guard, and related missions in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE, monitoring the arrival of the released vessels and personnel in Jizan.

“In addition, we will share the situation with the officials of countries near where the accident occurred and will offer advice regarding safety measures to prevent similar accidents from happening again.”

The Houthi rebels have been fighting the Saudi Arabian regime and the vessels seizures prompted the South Korean government to dispatch the Cheonghae naval unit, which had been stationed off Oman, to rescue the captured crew members. The Cheonghae unit, comprising close to 300 personnel, includes the destroyer Dae Jo-yeong, an anti-submarine helicopter, and three speedboats. It has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009 for anti-piracy operations and used in recent years to help evacuate South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen.