Oil prices are up and security companies have warned shippers to avoid the Red Sea, following US and UK military strikes on Yemen.
The aerial assault was carried out overnight. They came in response to an increasing pattern of attacks on shipping around Yemen.
A number of groups, including the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and security company Dryad Global, have warned shippers to avoid the Red Sea. Dryad said clients should suspend operations in the area for the next 72 hours.
The CMF said ships should avoid Bab-el-Mandeb. Ships should consider waiting outside the area until at least January 13, it said.
Intertanko has advised ships to turn off AIS transmission in the area. US forces have said this is how the Houthis are tracking ships. Another option suggested by Intertanko was transiting the area at night, as most attacks have taken place during the day.
The US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian on December 18. This aimed to provide security to shipping. The airstrikes last night marked an escalation from this.
A statement from the UK Ministry of Defence described the attack as a “carefully co-ordinated strike” intended to reduce the Houthis’ ability to attack shipping.
Dryad warned that the attacks should make shippers cautious. “The full impact and effectiveness of these airstrikes are still being assessed,” it said. “In the interim, there is a heightened risk of Houthi forces seeking immediate retribution by targeting accessible vessels within their vicinity.”
Indeed, Houthi representatives have already warned of a response. A statement from the group said the US and UK forces had struck 73 targets, including in the capital of Sanaa and four provinces. The attack killed five and injured six of the Houthi armed forces.
“The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and it will not go unanswered and unpunished,” the statement continued. It said it would target sites on land and at sea, in defence of Yemen.
The Houthi statement went on to say the group continued to support Palestine and prevent Israeli ships from operating in the area.
Coalition forces had signposted that attacks were coming. As such, they are unlikely to have taken the Houthis by surprise.
The US said the attack had targeted radar systems, air defences and sites for storing and launching unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
UK aircraft struck a site at Bani, in northwest Yemen, used to launch drones. Another site was an airfield at Abbs, where Houthis had launched cruise missiles and drones.