Rising Tensions in the Red Sea: Impact on Global Supply Chain and Civilian Safety

2023-12-24 06:24:29
An Iraqi oil tanker heading to the Suez Canal carrying fuel to support the Gaza Strip in Palestine is anchored at the port of Basra, Iraq, on the 21st (local time)./Archyde.com Yonhap News

Since the war between Israel and Hamas began, Yemen’s pro-Iran Houthi rebels have been launching indiscriminate attacks on ships passing near the area. As tensions in the region increase, there are concerns that civilian casualties in third countries may occur or the global supply chain, including crude oil, may be disrupted.

According to foreign media such as the Times of Israel, on the 23rd (local time) Houthi rebels launched missile and drone attacks against US warships and civilian ships in the Red Sea. The U.S. Central Command announced that between 3 and 8 p.m. local time, the USS Rabun destroyer of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group was patrolling the southern Red Sea when it shot down four unmanned aerial vehicles flying from the Houthi rebel-controlled area to the USS Rabun destroyer. It is reported that there were no injuries or damage.

At around 8pm on the same day, a report was received that two ships were being attacked in the southern Red Sea. The ships in question were a Norwegian oil tanker owned and operated by Norway and a Gabon-owned oil tanker registered in India, and no damage was confirmed. This attack was the 14th and 15th attack on merchant ships since October 17.

On the same day, a commercial ship was attacked by a drone in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement that at 10 a.m. on this day, a merchant ship was attacked by a one-way drone from Iran in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) off the coast of India. This merchant ship is a chemical product carrier shipped by Liberia, owned by Japan, and operated by the Netherlands. A fire briefly broke out on board, but it was soon extinguished. The United States believed that Iran was behind the attack and announced sanctions to restrict the Houthi rebels’ finances.

The Houthi rebels are threatening ships passing through the Red Sea under the pretext of responding to the Israeli military’s attack on the Gaza Strip. However, Iran denied the US claim that it was behind the attack by Houthi rebels. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Qani claimed on the 23rd, “(The Houthi rebels) have their own tools of power and act according to their decisions and capabilities.”

As the danger in the waters around the Red Sea increases, shipping companies are being forced to change routes. Many ships are returning to the African continent without passing through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. As a result, the burden on shipping companies is increasing, with transportation costs increasing. There are also concerns that transportation delays may worsen due to poor African port facilities.

Meanwhile, the day before, on the 22nd, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to expand humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Palestine. However, this resolution did not include a call for a ceasefire due to opposition from the United States and others.

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