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How to Counter Houthis' Menace in Red Sea?



The recent surge in attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea by Yemen's Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthis, has set alarm bells ringing across the international community. The cautious approach by the US government towards intervening decisively in this critical maritime passage, however, might be a misstep with profound implications for global trade security.

 

From mid-November to mid-December, reports surfaced of over 30 merchant vessels being targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea. This unprecedented escalation of attacks has forced major shipping companies to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, bypassing the Suez Canal. The repercussions of these actions on global commerce are not fully quantified yet, but the early indicators are stark.

 

One immediate consequence of these attacks has been the doubling of insurance rates for shipping lines. Such a spike in costs not only burdens the shipping industry but also has a cascading effect on global trade. Moreover, the redirection of maritime traffic around the Cape of Good Hope presents logistical challenges that reverberate throughout supply chains worldwide.

 

Shifting shipping routes to circumnavigate Africa entail longer transit times, increased fuel consumption, and a higher demand for additional ships. These added complexities strain supply chains already grappling with disruptions caused by the pandemic. Prolonged delays in shipments not only disrupt the timely delivery of goods but also inflate operational costs for businesses.

 

Equally concerning is the environmental impact of this rerouting. Longer voyages mean heightened emissions, exacerbating the carbon footprint of global shipping. The environmental strain resulting from increased maritime traffic through a longer route poses a significant threat to marine ecosystems and sustainability efforts.

 

Addressing the Houthis' threat in the Red Sea is not just about safeguarding commercial interests; it's about upholding the stability and resilience of global trade networks. The strategic significance of the Red Sea as a vital maritime passage cannot be overstated. It serves as a critical conduit for approximately 10% of global trade, linking Europe, Asia, and Africa.

 

Allowing the Houthis' aggressive actions to persist unchecked threatens not only commercial shipping but also the principles of free and secure navigation in international waters. It sets a perilous precedent that could embolden other non-state actors to disrupt vital trade routes worldwide, further destabilizing the global economy.

 

The Biden administration's reticence to take decisive action in curbing the Houthis' attacks risks a deepening of the crisis. Immediate intervention and collaboration with international partners are imperative to address this threat and restore confidence in the security of the Red Sea's maritime lanes.

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