#ISRAELHAMASWAR. Increased risk of seafarers from Houthi missiles slows global trade

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The recent sinking of the container ship Tudor in the Red Sea caused by a Houthi punt has unleashed the commercial shipping sector which is paying the highest price for the war between Hamas and Israel.

Urgent action needs to be taken in the Red Sea to stop attacks on merchant ships by Yemen’s Houthis, leading industry groups have said, after the second sinking.

Pro-Iranian Houthi militants first launched drone and missile attacks on the important trade route in November in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

In more than 70 attacks, they also seized a ship and its crew and killed at least three seafarers, Reuters reports.

“It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply doing their jobs, vital jobs that keep the world warm, fed and clothed,” the world’s major shipping associations said in a joint statement.

“These attacks must stop now. We call on states with influence in the region to safeguard our innocent seafarers and quickly de-escalate the situation in the Red Sea.”

The Greek-owned coal ship Tutor attacked by Yemen’s Houthi militants in the Red Sea last week has sunk.

she claims to have been hit by missiles and a remote-controlled boat loaded with explosives.

International naval forces have been deployed to primarily provide defensive support to ships still sailing through the Red Sea, but attacks have increased significantly.

Insurance industry sources said there was also growing concern over the Houthis’ use of attack drones.

“They are harder to defend against and are potentially more lethal when they hit the waterline,” an industry source said. “The missiles have caused, to date, mainly damage to the bridge and superstructure.”

There have been 10 Houthi attacks so far in June compared to five in May. Insurance industry sources said additional war risk premiums, paid when ships cross the Red Sea, have hovered around 0.7% of a ship’s value in recent days compared with around 1% in beginning of this year.

They added that with the sinking of a second ship and the losses that could result, rates are likely to stabilize, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to each voyage.

Most ships have deployed armed guards on board to help defend the crew during potential attacks, but the crew themselves are rarely trained or equipped for conflict.

Seafarers have support if they choose not to leave, says the International Transport Workers’ Federation, ITF, the main seafarers’ union. The nearly 360,000 seafarers covered by an ITF agreement worldwide have the contractual right to refuse to sail in designated war zones and to seek repatriation at the shipowner’s expense.

Over 80% of global trade takes place by sea and an estimated 1.8 million seafarers serve on ships, with a growing shortage of skilled seafarers. According to the latest Maritime Workforce Report released in 2021, around 18,000 additional officers are expected to be added each year to meet demand. Thousands of senior officers are needed to serve the 80,000-strong High Seas Fleet.

Antonio Albanese e Graziella Giangiulio

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