“Operation Prosperity Guardian” is the name of a new naval coalition that will include the likes of the U.S, U.K, France, Italy, Canada, Bahrain, Spain, and the Netherlands among many others, as the list grows with new members joining every day.
The goal of this coalition is to protect trade within the Red Sea after a recent uptick in attacks by Houthi rebels from Yemen has been seen, causing numerous shipping lanes to be suspended until further notice.
In a statement by U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this week, he said that “countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor”.
This comes after U.S and U.K destroyers in the region shot down a total of 15 drones in the area this past weekend the 16th and 17th of December 2023.
This recent surge in Houthi activity has been attributed to the current war in Gaza, as the Houthi leadership who are allied with Iran have stated that they only seek to target ships that are involved with Israel.
The Houthis have since launched multiple drones and missile strikes, attacking vessels such as the Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic and the MSC Clara as a show of force in solidarity with Hamas in Gaza.
However, despite claiming to only be targeting Israeli linked ships, the Swan Atlantic had no such links and was being managed by a firm in Singapore according to a statement put out by the owner of the ship, Norway’s Inventor Chemical Tankers.
There have so far been no reported deaths or injuries from any vessel attacked by the Houthis.
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, senior Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti stated that the Houthi rebels would defy and challenge any naval coalition sent to the Red Sea.
In a recent report by Al Jazeera, countries such as Egypt, Jordan and other Arab nations are interested in joining the coalition as much of their trade is dependent on trade within the Red Sea.
What companies have suspended operations in the Red Sea?
So far 12 shipping companies have suspended operations due to the Houthi attacks, such as Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, France’s CMA CGM, and the Swiss/Italian Mediterranean Shipping Company.
By far the largest company to stop operating in the region is U.K oil company BP, in a statement this Monday they said “In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” continuing by saying “We will keep this precautionary pause under ongoing review, subject to circumstances as they evolve in the region”.
What has the effect been on global trade?
These attacks by the Houthis have caused a significant amount of global trade to be rerouted from going through the Suez Canal and onto South Asia, to being forced to travel around Africa instead, leading to delays and higher costs for consumers on goods such as food, energy, and consumer products.
The journey around the Cape of Good Hope adds approximately 3,000 miles to the journey of a ship, which equates to an additional 14 days for ships to reach their destination.
With around 12% of all global trade passing through the Red Sea, this disruption has caused major shockwaves around the globe.
Oil prices have already seen a rise, as Brent crude oil is up more than 2.5% since this Monday.
The Houthi attacks have also coincidentally come at a perfect time for them, as the world’s most important water trade path, the Panama Canal, has recently had major delays to travel through it due to lack of rainfall this winter.
Senior manager for container research at Drewry, Simon Heaney said in an interview with Sky News “It's unprecedented that the two have coincided," he later added that neither the Suez nor the Panama canals were closed but just "less viable for the short term".
Edited by Chloe Mansola
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