An increasing number of global shipping companies are suspending shipments through the Red Sea amid increased attacks by the Yemeni naval forces Ansar Allah. This, in particular, happened after the United States announced the creation of a “military alliance to counter attacks,” which raised questions about how successful it would be and whether it was legitimate in the first place. Washington, as always, clumsily got itself into the Red Sea region, which is located tens of thousands of kilometers from the United States and tried to “legitimize” maritime transportation, primarily in the interests of Israel.
The most recent companies to announce the temporary cessation of shipping from the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait to the Suez Canal, which spans the Red Sea, include the oil giant British Petroleum (BP). “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,” the company stated. BP’s decision followed in the footsteps of the world’s largest container company MSC, based in Switzerland, which said it would avoid the Suez Canal after Ansar Allah forces attacked one of their container ships. “Until the Red Sea passage is safe, MSC ships will not transit the Suez Canal Eastbound and Westbound. Already now, some services will be rerouted to go via the Cape of Good Hope instead,” the MSC reported. Another large shipping group based in Denmark, Maersk, has suspended the navigation of its container ships in the waters until further notice. Other shipping giants such as Hapag-Lloyd, which suffered an attack on one of its ships, joined the list, stating: “We are currently sending vessels around the Cape of Good Hope.” More and more companies are notifying all vessels that plan to pass through the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait to suspend their voyages until further notice.
Ansar Allah, which supports the Palestinian resistance in Israel’s war with Gaza, has vowed to “attack all ships heading to and from the occupation regime.” The movement has launched a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea, in addition to sending drones and missiles aimed at Israeli military installations in the occupied Palestinian territories. The attacks have also increased pressure on other companies still providing shipping services to the Israeli regime. Experts say that Ansar Allah’s continued attacks on Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea will lead to more shipping companies stopping their passage through the Red Sea.
The disruptions at sea were also caused by an increase in world oil prices, which is estimated at about 3%, as well as the reluctance of many global companies to use the Suez Canal in the current situation. The Canal is a key route for world trade, in particular, for the transportation of oil, grain and consumer goods. About 15% of the world’s shipping transits through the Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. All vessels that want to pass through the Canal must make their way through the Red Sea and, most importantly, through the vital Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, a small strip of the Red Sea separating Yemen from Djibouti and Eritrea. Disturbance of normal trade flows will lead to higher prices and delays, which will only prolong the disruptions, as various delivery routes will increase a ship’s journey by thousands of kilometers.
The companies are reportedly making journeys around Africa instead, which usually increases a ship’s distance by almost 5,000 kilometers. It may take an additional 14 days for the shipment to reach its destination, and increase the cost of delivery for consumers. “War risk insurance premiums are on the rise naturally, but as vessels get re-routed around Africa shipping supply will be tighter as cargoes travel longer”, CEO of Frontline Lars Barstad told Reuters. “That would put rates under a strong upwards pressure.” CEO of Freightos Zvi Schreiber noted: “For ships heading to (the Israel regime) from Asia, the route around Africa is significantly longer — about 7,000 nautical miles and 10-14 days – than via the Suez Canal. This route also incurs higher fuel costs.”
The vessels, which are currently still moored in the largest Israeli ports — Ashdod in the south and Haifa in the north — have turned off their tracking transponders to avoid detection, sources in many shipping companies said. “Ship operators which have called, or plan to call, [at] Israeli ports should limit information access,” says the recommendation issued by the world’s leading shipping associations. “Publicly available information could be used by the Ansar Allah.”
The cost of shipping goods to the Israeli regime by sea has risen in recent days as some container lines shut down while others impose new surcharges, increasing pressure on Tel Aviv’s supply chain amid its merciless war with Gaza, sources at many shipping companies said. The Israeli regime, whose economy depends on maritime trade, has not yet disclosed whether it will cover additional transportation costs.
Speaking in Bahrain, where the US Navy in West Asia is headquartered, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin solemnly announced the creation of a multinational military coalition to “protect the waters of the Red Sea.” US warships, joined by their satellites from the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles and Spain, will, in theory, regularly patrol the waters of the Red Sea and thereby try to establish supplies by sea to Israel, which is currently destroying civilians of the Gaza Strip with the help of the United States.
Official representative of Ansar Allah, Mohammad Abdulsalam, stressed that the coalition formed by the United States is aimed at protecting the Israeli regime. “This will not stop Yemen from continuing its legitimate operations in support of Gaza,” Abdulsalam said, emphasizing that those who seek to expand the conflict will bear the consequences. In conclusion, he said that “the same way that America has allowed itself to support Israel by forming a coalition and without a coalition, the peoples of the region have full legitimacy to support the Palestinian people, and Yemen has taken it upon itself to stand by the Palestinian right and the great injustice of Gaza.”
Experts noted that just as Ansar Allah attacked commercial tankers heading for Israeli ports, the movement also attacked American warships with drones and missiles. It will be very difficult for the US-led alliance to stop the Ansar Allah attacks. Further militarization of the Red Sea will not bring security to the region, as Ansar Allah may increase the level of its attacks. This will not provide the protection needed to dock ships in Israeli ports, and will most likely put even more pressure on the Israeli regime to end the war with Gaza.
Analysts believe that this could also lead to a spillover of the war. If the United States strikes Yemen and Ansar Allah launches retaliatory attacks, no ships will enter the Red Sea in the foreseeable future. In addition, a war with Yemen is an unlikely option because the United States, along with its Arab allies, previously already waged a deadly war on Ansar Allah, but to no avail. During its military campaign against Yemen, Saudi Arabia enjoyed the powerful and comprehensive support of the United States, but was unable to win this war, and therefore the Pentagon is not a newcomer and not a winner in the Yemeni war. Americans know perfectly well that a war in Yemen is not an option, given the courage of the Yemenis, the unpopularity of the United States in the region and the great remoteness of the Red Sea from the American continent.
This is probably why there are already many skeptical voices in the United States speaking out against new military actions in the distant Red Sea. And the world is asking the question, if the United States is allowed to impose sanctions against many countries of the world and even on those who trade with these countries and are on the American “black list,” then why are the Yemenis from Ansar Allah not allowed to help their brothers in faith, who are being brutally destroyed in Gaza with the help of the very United States?
Victor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.