Urgent Warning and Strategic Guidance for Navigating the Heightened Security Threat in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

Ridelink Series

Written by Henry Senkungu on Dec. 20, 2023

Recent attacks on commercial vessels, including the near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar on December 14th and the subsequent attack on another container vessel on December 15th, highlight the immediate and serious danger posed to seafarers and the global trade system. These have been fueled by the Houthi forces and they are attacking vessels using the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

The Suez Canal, connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, serves as a vital conduit for global maritime trade, offering the shortest route between Europe and Asia. Approximately 12% of the world's shipping traffic navigates this strategic waterway.

In tandem, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, facilitating the passage between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, witnesses the transit of around 23,000 ships. Duncan Potts, a former vice admiral in the Royal Navy and a past maritime security commander in the Gulf, highlights the geopolitical significance of this maritime corridor, emphasizing its vulnerability to targeting and attacks.

Regrettably, maritime trade in the region faces disruptions due to attacks by Yemen's Houthi militants in the Red Sea. This has compelled some vessels to alter their course, opting for a considerably longer East-West route around the southern tip of Africa. The strategic implications of these disruptions extend beyond regional tensions, affecting global shipping patterns and prompting a reconsideration of navigational choices by the international maritime community.

Maersk Gibraltar among the Vessel that have paused their movement through the Red Sea route, Pic Credit: Rappler.com

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Vessels associated with Israeli interests are reportedly opting for an extended route around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, according to Noam Raydan, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This strategic shift has elongated the typical journey duration from approximately 19 days to 31 days, contingent on vessel speed, leading to heightened costs and operational delays.

Despite recent attacks, the global oil market appears resilient, with prices experiencing a decline. The prevailing concerns in the market are now centered on weakened demand in major economies, overshadowing the immediate impact of the Houthi escalation. Notably, the most tangible consequence of the heightened tensions has been a noticeable increase in insurance costs for maritime operations in the region. This dynamic underscores the multifaceted repercussions of geopolitical events on both global trade routes and economic considerations.

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In light of this evolving situation, Ridelink urges all shippers, carriers, and seafarers to exercise extreme caution when transiting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and has halted Road Sea shipments using this route. We recommend the following strategic guidance:

1. Closely Monitor the Situation: Stay updated on the latest developments and security assessments issued by official maritime authorities and credible intelligence sources. Utilize resources like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) to gain real-time insights and make informed decisions.

2. Re-evaluate Transit Routes: Consider alternative routes that avoid traversing high-risk areas, even if it results in extended voyage times. The safety of your crew and cargo should be the top priority.

3. Implement Enhanced Security Measures: Increase onboard vigilance and implement stricter security protocols. This includes heightened watch routines, restricted access to sensitive areas, and close communication with regional authorities.

4. Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with experienced maritime security specialists to assess your specific risks and develop tailored mitigation strategies.

Remember, the safety of your crew and cargo is paramount. By prioritizing caution, vigilance, and proactive measures, we can navigate this complex situation and work towards a more secure maritime future for all.

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We encourage you to share this information with your network and amplify the call for a peaceful resolution to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden conflict.

Together, we can ensure the safety of our seafarers and safeguard the integrity of global trade.

Header ImageArmed men stand on a Yemeni beach as the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by the Houthi rebels last month, is anchored off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, on December 5, 2023  by Aljazera



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