| 24 February 2024, Saturday |

Red Sea attacks force rerouting of vessels, disrupting supply chains

Attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militants on ships in the Red Sea are disrupting maritime trade and prompting U.S. efforts to build a coalition to deal with the threat, as freight firms reroute around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the Suez Canal.

The Houthi group said it launched a drone attack on two cargo vessels in the area on Monday, the latest in a series of missile and drone strikes on shipping which it says are a response to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking on a visit to Israel, said Washington was building a coalition to address the Houthi threat and said defence ministers from the region and beyond would hold virtual talks on the issue on Tuesday.

Norway said it was ready to provide naval officers, while other NATO states said they were ready to consider support.

About 15% of world shipping traffic transits via the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Several major freight firms — including MSC — have begun to sail around Africa instead, adding costs and delays which are expected to be compounded over coming weeks, according to industry analysts.

London’s marine insurance market widened the area in the Red Sea it deemed high risk on Monday, adding to premiums ships pay.

The war between Israel and Hamas, which began on Oct. 7, has sent shockwaves through the region and threatened to cause a broader conflict.

  • Reuters