The United States is leading a coalition of half a dozen countries to step up the protection of shipping routes in the Red Sea amid attacks from the Yemeni Houthis on vessels in the area.
The announcement, made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, came just hours after BP said it would bypass the Red Sea with its tankers, which immediately pushed oil prices higher.
Per a Financial Times report, the coalition will involve several NATO countries, including the UK and France, as well as allies from the Gulf such as Bahrain. These will provide more ships to patrol the waters in what Austin called Operation Prosperity Guardian.
“In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” BP said on Monday in a statement carried by the BBC.
“We will keep this precautionary pause under ongoing review, subject to circumstances as they evolve in the region,” the company noted.
BP thus becomes the latest major firm to have decided to temporarily halt shipments in the area that has become a prime target of attacks on vessels by the Iran-aligned Houthis who control most of Yemen.
The world’s largest shipping lines have also announced the suspension of travel through the Red Sea amid the string of attacks by Yemen’s Houthis and, most recently, Somali pirates. Maersk Tankers, Moller-Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, and MSC all said their vessels would be avoiding the Suez Canal until the security situation improves. The most recent addition to this group was French CMA CGM.
The Houthis declared their missile and drone attacks on vessels passing through the Red Sea as a response to Israel’s blanket bombing of Gaza. Since November, there have been eleven attacks, the FT said in its report.