Over 80 container ships still transiting the Red Sea and Suez Canal ,Vessel tracking shows that even after the raised threat from the Houthi Movement, which has warned it will target vessels connected to Israel.
Houthi leaders have reportedly said that they would target shipping until Israel allows aid into Gaza and stops bombing its population, with the latest news from the UN that a vote will take place on a ceasefire. Although the UN proposal is supported by the US, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to stop the Houthi group from targeting commercial shipping in the Bab al-Mandeb strait.
With a large number of container ships still operating in the region, many from the top ten carriers, including COSCO, ONE, Wan Hai, Maersk, CMA CGM and MSC and some ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs), the Houthis will not be short of targets.
A spokesman of CMA CGM said the French shipping company “is working in close co-operation with the appropriate authorities and is working on the appropriate safety measures with them.”
He pointed out that while it would be difficult to outline the security measures under discussion, the actions being taken are to protect crew, vessels and freight on board its ships.
Maersk also responded to requests for clarification following its announcement, like CMA CGM and others that all its vessels would be re-routed until the Suez Canal route was again safe.
Pointing to Maersk’s 19 December statement which said, “Having monitored developments closely and retrieved all available intelligence, Maersk has decided that all vessels previously paused and due to sail through the region will now be re-routed around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope for safety reasons.”
However, a Maersk spokesman also highlighted that some of its vessels operate under the trading name of Maersk Line Limited, which handles freight for the US Government and “is not part of Maersk Line’s overall offering”.
The US has assembled a multi-national naval force to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandeb, in what it calls Operation Prosperity Guardian. Greece and Denmark are the most recent additions to the force, which includes Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Seychelles and others.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder at a Pentagon press conference said, “It’s very important to understand that the Houthis aren’t attacking just one country, they’re really attacking the international community.”
He added, “They are attacking the economic well-being and prosperity of nations around the world. So, in effect, they really become bandits along the international highway that is the Red Sea.”
Greece has sent a frigate to join the international force with the Greek defence minister, Nikos Dendias, saying, “The frigate will participate in the multinational operation ‘Prosperity Guardian’, for the protection of merchant ships, the lives of seafarers, and the global economy.”