RIYADH: The Saudi capital was on Wednesday the venue for a high-profile international workshop aimed at boosting maritime security in the Red Sea.
More than 70 delegates, including diplomats, defense personnel, and industry leaders from the public and private sectors, gathered in Riyadh to discuss ways to bolster cooperation.
Officials from ports and maritime companies in Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and Europe joined government maritime and defense representatives from the region, the EU, the US, and the UK for the conference.
In a keynote speech, Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Center, highlighted the strategic importance of the Red Sea to stability, security, and prosperity in the region and Europe.
Ambassador Jakob Brix Tange, representing the European Maritime Awareness mission in the Strait of Hormuz, gave a presentation on the role of European maritime forces in helping protect the sea passage.
The Red Sea is an important tourist, economic, and trade hub for bordering countries and 12 percent of the world’s, and 20 percent of Europe’s, trade transits through it.
The workshop was hosted by the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh, together with the French, Danish, and EU member states’ embassies.
Dutch links to the Red Sea and Kingdom date back to 1872 when the Netherlands established a consulate in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia is considered a top priority for Dutch economic diplomacy, and companies from the Netherlands play a major role in the global maritime transport economy, with the Port of Rotterdam a gateway to European markets.
And the Netherlands, with the support of Saudi Arabia, is currently working to mobilize the international community toward salvaging the decaying FSO Safer oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. Experts fear a spill from the ship would cause an environmental disaster for the Red Sea region.
The workshop coincided with recent regional developments such as closer cooperation initiatives within the Red Sea Council, a relatively new strategic partnership between the EU and the GCC that prioritises maritime security collaboration, and the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
All participants at the Riyadh seminar agreed on the need to further explore ways of nations working together to maintain Red Sea security.