Commercial ships can safely pass through the Red Sea again: ‘Most welcome news’

Click to play video: 'U.S. announces naval coalition to defend Red Sea shipping from Yemen’s Houthi attacks: White House'
U.S. announces naval coalition to defend Red Sea shipping from Yemen’s Houthi attacks: White House
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni militants in the Red Sea must stop and that the U.S. and its partners will continue to protect ships from being targeted. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that several countries have agreed to jointly carry out patrols in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to try to safeguard commercial shipping against attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels – Dec 19, 2023

Commercial vessels are now able to safely pass through the Red Sea with the help of a new security initiative, the world’s largest shipping firm has announced.

Maersk said in a press release Sunday that it has received confirmation that U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) has been set up and deployed, allowing commerce to safely pass through the Red Sea using the Suez Canal as a gateway between Asia and Europe.

“This is most welcome news for the entire industry and indeed the functionality of global trade,” Maersk said in the release.

U.S. defence secretary Lloyd Austin announced the multi-national security initiative earlier this month, saying in a release that OPG is necessary to tackle the “recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen.”

The operation is meant to protect commercial vessels traversing the Red Sea amid escalating missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that have threatened global trade.

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A Canadian government official told Global News last week that Canada will be deploying “a handful of personnel” to the region “in the coming days” as part of the mission.

Click to play video: 'Oil giant BP joins growing list of companies pausing Red Sea shipments'
Oil giant BP joins growing list of companies pausing Red Sea shipments

The Iran-backed Houthis have targeted Israeli-linked vessels since Israel began its military response to Hamas’ brutal attacks on Oct. 7. But those attacks have escalated in recent weeks, with ballistic missiles and drone-launched projectiles hitting or just missing ships without clear ties.

The seriousness of the attacks, several of which have damaged vessels, has led multiple shipping companies to order their ships to reroute or hold in place and not enter the Bab el-Mandab Strait until the security situation can be addressed.

London-based oil and gas corporation BP said earlier this month that it has “decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” including shipments of oil, liquid natural gas and other energy supplies.

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About 10 per cent of the world’s goods flow through the Red Sea, which spans the Bab el-Mandab Strait in the south to the Suez Canal in the north. It’s one of the most valuable trade routes connecting Asia to Europe and North America.

With the OPG in operation, Maersk says it is working on sending out the first vessels as soon as operationally possible. Though it is still assessing “the immediate effects of the resolution.”

“Although security measures are in place to enable the transit of the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden for our vessels, the overall risk in the area is not eliminated at this stage. Maersk will not hesitate to re-evaluate the situation and once again initiate diversion plans if we deem it necessary for the safety of our seafarers,” it said.

–with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton.

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