Operation Prosperity Guardian Isn’t Reassuring Major Merchants, Over 100 Container Ships Have Diverted Away from the Red Sea

In recent weeks, US warships stationed in the Red Sea have encountered an escalation in attacks from Houthi forces in Yemen. On Saturday, a US destroyer successfully intercepted and downed over a dozen drones in a heightened confrontation. 

The Houthi forces, reportedly backed by Iran, have intensified assaults on US interests and Israeli targets since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel. The attacks are a direct response to Israel’s assault on Gaza, with the Houthis demanding humanitarian aid access to Gaza and an end to what they describe as Israel’s brutal war that has resulted in the death of over 19,000 Palestinians, 70% of them children and women.

The Houthis are targeting commercial vessels destined for Israel in response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, declaring any such ship a “legitimate target.” Their tactics include drone and missile attacks on commercial shipping, as well as attempting to hijack a vessel by landing commandos via helicopter.

Responding to the growing threat, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new operation aimed at safeguarding merchant ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. 

“I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea,” Austin said in a statement. The operation includes the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

However, major container shipping companies, including MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd, have temporarily diverted transit to avoid the Red Sea for safety reasons. This decision, compounded by oil giant BP’s similar move, has led to a surge in oil and gas prices, raising concerns about potential disruptions to global supply chains and increased freight costs.

According to Swiss logistics giant Kuehne+Nagel International AG, there are now more than 100 container ships taking the long route around Africa to steer clear of potential attacks. 

The Houthis have also vowed to launch more attacks after the announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian.

“Whoever moves with the Americans and involves himself in protecting Israeli ships knows that he is providing an exclusive service to Israel and harming international navigation,” Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi said on Wednesday. “We are not one of those who stand idly by while the enemy strikes us.” 

Information for this story was found via Bloomberg, CNN, the Washington Post, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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