By Marita Moaje

(File photo)

MANILA – The two Filipino seafarers in a thwarted hijacking incident in the Gulf of Aden are free, according to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

“The DMW welcomes a report from the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) 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 issued on Monday.

According to the DMW, the USNI reported that United States Naval Forces thwarted the hijacking attempt by an armed group of the chemical tanker M/V Central Park.

Reports said the tanker was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Africa, on Sunday.

The DMW immediately checked its records, coordinated with the licensed manning agency of the ship, and asked for a full report of the incident.

It also started reaching out to the family and relatives of the two Filipino seafarers.

They also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as other partners in the international maritime and shipping industry, to ensure the safety of Filipino seafarers in the region.

The USNI reported that it received a distress call from M/V Central Park that they were under attack by an unknown entity.

It said that five armed individuals boarded and attempted to take control of the chemical tanker, which is owned by an Israeli businessman.

“Before the pirates could take control of the ship, the crew had barricaded themselves in the tanker’s citadel, an armored panic room. Unable to seize the crew, the pirates boarded a skiff and headed toward Yemen,” the USNI report read.

It added that the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender.

The five individuals are detained for questioning.

The DMW had already raised the possibility of declaring certain areas in the Red Sea as high-risk zones for Filipino seafarers and had coordinated with employers and seafarers’ groups in the maritime sector.

Meanwhile, 17 Filipino seafarers on board Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader are still being held hostage since Nov. 19 when the vehicle carrier was hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi group.

Quoting the ship’s Japanese operator, NYK Line, international reports said the vessel had no cargo at the time of the hijacking.

Its other crewmembers are from Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Mexico.

Other reports said the ship has been taken to Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah. (PNA)