Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will announce the formation of an international naval alliance sometime this week, to ensure the safety of commercial ships in the Red Sea in general and Bab al-Maneb in particular. Since the Israel-Hamas War broke out on October 7, Iranian proxy Houthis have attacked at least 10 commercial vessels in Yemen. Two of the ships seized by pirates are owned by Houthi-affiliated pirates.
Around 10 percent of all sea traffic in the world passes through the Red Sea. The trip is extended by approximately twelve days if ships are rerouted around Cape of Good Hope, which increases freight costs and disrupts supply chains. Two of the largest shipping companies in the world, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk, have ordered their ships to avoid entering the Red Sea for the time being due to the frequency of attacks.
Is it too much to expect that military operations will be called things that aren’t awful? Ships from several nations will be involved in the new coalition, which is called Operation Prosperity Guardian. It is still unclear what the concept will be, but the idea is to combine protection for individual ships and convoys. The name of the operation is all that we know about it. We don’t even know how many ships are involved, what countries they come from, or when it will start.
Shipping companies take it seriously. Automatic Identification System beacons show that Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, and other ships are forming a convoy.
— Sal Mercogliano (WGOW Shipping) 🚢⚓🐪🚒🏴☠️ (@mercoglianos) December 17, 2023
As of yet, the allied navies’ record in protecting shipping is mixed. The focus of attention appears to be on self-defense and intercepting missiles and drones headed to Israel. Shipping has largely been left to its own devices. US destroyers are doing most of the heavy lifting. The USS Carney, for example, has taken out 14 Houthi drones during a single engagement on Friday. A French destroyer and a Royal Navy ship have also shot down drones.
We need to think beyond the possibility that the Israel-Hamas War will expand if Israel launches retaliatory attacks against Yemen. This exercise is to test the US and NATO’s response when a vital maritime route is blocked. We will also be testing our tactics, techniques, and procedures for keeping the sea routes open.