EU Launches Mission Aspides to Guard Red Sea Ships From Houthi Assaults

News Agencies | 2024-02-19 09:56 PM UTC
EU Launches Mission Aspides to Guard Red Sea Ships From Houthi Assaults



The European Union on Monday formally launched a bespoke naval mission to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea from attacks by Iran-backed Houthis. Mission ‘Aspides’ - Greek for shield - will aim to preserve freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, a region plagued with instability since October when Houthi rebels began targeting vessels navigating the waterway with a barrage of drone and rocket attacks. The Houthis say their attacks are in retaliation for Israel’s war in Gaza that has so far claimed the lives of some 29,000 Palestinians. 12% of global trade and as much as 30% of global container traffic pass through Bab El-Mandeb, their strikes have threatened to severely disrupt trade flows into Europe.


A UK-registered cargo ship is at risk of sinking in the Red Sea after Houthis attacked it off the coast of Yemen last night, the rebel group has claimed. The attack occurred in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, 35 nautical miles south of Al Mukha, Yemen, on Sunday night, the UK's Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said, against a vessel that was later identified as the Rubymar. The crew of the British-registered cargo ship, which comes in at 171.6m long and 27m wide, was forced to 'abandon the vessel' following the attack, though the UKMTO said yesterday that all crew are safe and 'authorities are investigating.'


Canada's Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Sunday said China should play a role in keeping the Red Sea safe for commerce because Chinese ships are at risk there as well, and urged Beijing to stop helping Russia sidestep international sanctions. In an interview, Joly said she told China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a bilateral meeting on Saturday that Beijing needs "to help to influence the Houthis to keep the Red Sea open." Joly also said she spoke to Wang about making sure that Western sanctions against Russia hold as the war in Ukraine drags on. "We need to put maximum pressure on Russia," Joly said. "Our sanctions are strong, but China cannot be the loophole in our sanction system."


Global oil benchmark Brent crude was little changed on Monday, hovering around $83 a barrel as festering demand concerns were offset by continuing conflict in the Middle East. Brent crude futures eased by 9 cents to $83.38 a barrel by 1434 GMT. The March contract for U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude , which expires on Tuesday, was up 20 cents at $79.39 in tepid trade while the WTI April contract slipped 12 cents to $78.34. Houthi forces have carried out attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is support of Palestinians in the war between Israel and Gaza.