U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new international effort to thwart attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea that have helped trigger a rally in oil prices and saddled merchants with longer wait times and higher transport costs.
“The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” Austin said in a statement late Monday. “The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade.”
Read more: Attacks in the Red Sea add to global shipping woes
Austin added that this “international challenge…demands collective action” and revealed that the new naval initiative, called Operation Prosperity Guardian would be supported by allies including the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.
The attacks in the Red Sea have been launched by Houthi militants, an Iranian-backed group in Yemen, in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas, an Islamist group also backed by Iran.
The attacks have helped trigger a rise in oil prices, with Brent crude
gaining 7.5% over the past week and West Texas Intermediate crude
rising 7%, according to FactSet.
Energy giant BP PLC
on Monday said it halted transits through the Red Sea, joining many of the world’s biggest shipping companies.
Container shipping giant A.P. Moller Maersk
and Hapag-Lloyd AG
stopped their ships from using the southern entrance of the Red Sea after attacks on their vessels, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration is considering re-designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization, after revoking that status in February 2021. “We are reviewing that designation as we speak,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.
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