The UK has joined an alliance tasked with tackling a spate of recent attacks in the Red Sea that have threatened to cripple the global supply chain.
British ships will soon set sail for the Middle East alongside a host of other nations under the flag of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a US-led security initiative built to defend vessels targeted by Houthi rebels.
Major companies have been forced to suspend trips delivering oil via the Red Sea shipping route after the rebel group, which controls strips of coastal territory in Yemen, started attacking ships last week. Maersk and BP are among the major multinational firms that have refused to travel through the major trade artery, citing risks for their crews as missiles and drones pepper waters near the Suez Canal.
The UK will join the US, Bahrain, Canada, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the Seychelles in a joint bid to protect the global oil supply chain.
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Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, announced the multinational initiative early this morning. The country pushed for Operation Prosperity Guardian, which has been developed via the World Shipping Council, as a “collective action” response to an “international challenge”.
In a statement, the secretary said the attacks endanger innocent seamen and the “free flow of commerce”. He said: “The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law.”
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He added that the group had a goal of “ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity”.
Hamas-allied Houthi rebels have targeted ships travelling along the Red Sea they believe are completing journeys to and from Israel, which is currently waging a brutal war against the militant group following devastating October 7 terror attacks.
BP became the most recent firm to suspend journeys in the Red Sea on December 18, halting its gas and oil deliveries due to what representatives said was a “deteriorating security situation”.
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The company said in a statement: “In our trading and shipping business, as in all BP businesses, the safety and security of our people and those working on our behalf is BP’s priority.
“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. We will keep this precautionary pause under ongoing review, subject to circumstances as they evolve in the region.”
The decision followed attacks on two commercial vessels – the Panama-flagged MSC Clara and the Norwegian – owned by Swan Atlantic on Monday, December 18.
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