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the red sea crisis

The Red Sea Crisis

 The Red Sea is a semi-enclosed tropical body of water located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean and bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti to the west and Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the east. 

Although the Red Sea is known for its natural beauty with its vast coral reefs, it is also an important shipping route for the oil tankers and other ships that pass through the Suez Canal. 

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict on the 7th of October 2023, geopolitical tensions in the Red Sea have increased. 

On 14 November the Houthi leader, Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, threatened Israeli shipping in the Red Sea directly, highlighting that the militant group was aware of Israeli vessels turning off their AIS signals before transiting the southern Red Sea. Furthermore, it was reported to Ambrey on 18 November 2023 that the Houthis would specifically target vessels withholding AIS transmissions. 

“Our position will not change in the direction of the Palestinian issue, whether a naval alliance is established or not.” Houthi official Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters, saying only Israeli ships or those going to Israel would be targeted. 

On 9 December 2023 Houthis indicated that they will also be targeting ships dealing with Israeli ports. Their target profile has broadened since then, as mentioned below. 

Members of Yemen’s Houthi rebel group have stepped up attacks on ships to show support for Hamas in the conflict with Israel. Therefore, Shipping firms have reported vessels coming under attack from drones and missiles. 

“The ballistic missiles are really the tough one. This is the first time we’ve ever seen ships hit by this type of weapon,” Sal Mercogliano, a naval historian at Campbell University, told the BBC. 

This has caused some of the world’s biggest companies, including shipping giant Maersk, Evergreen and oil giant BP among several others to suspend sailings through the Red Sea. According tothe Atlantic 

Council, seven out of the 10 biggest shipping companies by market share have suspended operations in the Red Sea. 

The route reaches Egypt’s Suez Canal, a key shortcut linking the Mediterranean and Asia without bypassing Africa, and is used by ships to transport natural gas, consumer goods, electronics, food and beverages. 

Approximately 12 percent of world trade passes through the Red Sea, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. Billions of dollars of traded goods and supplies pass through the Red Sea every year, meaning that delays there can affect petrol prices, the availability of electronics and other aspects of global trade. Oil and fossil gas prices rose following news that BP would halt shipping via the Red Sea. Analysts say energy costs are likely to rise further as attacks on ships continue and more oil companies halt shipping through the Red Sea. 

The Houthi attacks effectively redirected large amounts of trade by forcing cargo companies to circumnavigate Africa, leading to higher costs and delivery delays for energy, food and consumer goods. There are even vessels already in the Red Sea that are considering passing back through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, even if they’d have to pay half a million dollars to do so. 

The disruption has led the US to launch an international naval operation to protect ships on the Red Sea route. Several countries have announced contributions to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a new multinational security initiative in the Middle East aimed at protecting merchant ships in the Red Sea from drones and missiles. 

“Operation Prosperity Guardian brings together multiple countries, including the UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The goal is to “ensure freedom of navigation for all nations and strengthen regional security and prosperity,” said on Dec.18, US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin. 

Lastly, The International Union of Marine Insurers also issued a statement on December 19, condemning the attack on shipping : “Providing hull and cargo insurance is becoming increasingly difficult due to increased risks. As an insurance company, we are continually evaluating this situation to ensure appropriate coverage. We will continue 

to provide support to our customers while working to strengthen safety measures.” 

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