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Amid Red Sea attack fears, ships use ‘all Chinese crew’ tactic to avoid Houthi rebels

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In the midst of the rise in Houthi attacks on cargo ships across the Red Sea, many vessels are now using their signals to indicate that they have links to China in an effort to avoid a hijack attempt by the Iran-backed rebel group.

Being the latest unusual measure taken to try and avoid attack by Houthi militants in the Red Sea, at lease five ships venturing through the Red Sea “all Chinese crew” or something similar in a field that would normally contain its destination.

While two of the ships signaling ‘Chinese crew’ are currently in the Red Sea, two more have navigated the risky waterway and are now sailing to Asia. A fifth appears to be heading toward the Gulf of Aden.

The fears of exporters and cargo ship crews remain heightened as Red Sea witnesses a surge in Houthi attacks and hijacking attempts. The Yemen rebel group is attacking merchant vessels in a show of solidarity for Hamas during the ongoing war with Gaza.

While Houthis maintain that they are only targeting merchant ships with an Israel link, several vessels with no discernable Israeli link or crew members have been under attack. The result of these attacks is being witnessed through the decrease in global exports and surge in oil prices in the West.

Suez Canal transits have plunged, falling to the lowest level since the waterway was blocked by a giant container ship in 2021, as many ships choose to avoid the Red Sea and instead sail thousands of miles around Africa to deliver their goods.

US-UK launch military airstrike against Houthis

After the rapid surge in Houthi attacks across the Red Sea, the United States and United Kingdom launched a joint airstrike against Houthi rebel targets in Yemen. The same was confirmed by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday.

Rishi Sunak said that the Royal Air Force conducted targeted strikes against military facilities used by Houthi rebels in Yemen, calling it “limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence.”

The US and UK military forces – with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands – targeted Houthi rebels through a series of strikes on Thursday as a retaliation against attacks on the Red Sea. Sunak said that the Royal Navy is continuing to patrol the Red Sea in order to push back against Houthi aggression.

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