Ship manager calls on Houthis to free Galaxy Leader crew

Houthi fighter stands on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea

(Reuters) -Managers of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship on Tuesday renewed calls for Yemen's Houthi militants to release the vehicle carrier's 25 crew, who have been held for seven months.

The militants used helicopters to attack the Bahamas-flagged ship on Nov. 19. They captured the Bulgarian ship master and chief officer, along with 17 Filipinos and other sailors from Ukraine, Mexico and Romania, STAMCO Ship Management Co Ltd said in a statement.

"There is nothing to be gained by the Houthis in keeping the 25 crew members," said STAMCO, which requested that they be released to their families without further delay.

Galaxy Maritime Limited in the Isle of Man owns the Galaxy Leader.

The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents ship owners, has called the Houthi attacks "unacceptable acts of aggression which threaten the lives of innocent seafarers and the safety of merchant shipping".

Last week, Houthis made direct strikes on two ships - the Liberia-flagged Tutor coal carrier and Palau-flagged Verbena, which was loaded with wood construction material.

Those assaults prompted security experts to note a significant increase in the effectiveness of the Iran-aligned militants' drone and missile attacks.

Rescuers evacuated crews from the damaged ships due to safety risks. One sailor from the Tutor remains missing.

UKMTO on Tuesday said it believed that the Tutor had sunk. The Verbena is drifting and vulnerable to further attack or sinking.

U.S. and British forces on Monday conducted airstrikes targeting Yemen's Hodeidah International Airport and Kamaran Island near the port of Salif off the Red Sea.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London; Writing by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Alison Williams and Josie Kao)