AL-MUKALLA: The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency cautioned ships crossing the Red Sea on Monday to exercise care after a vessel reported an incident around 91 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden.
This came as a UN official said on Monday that attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militia on ships in the Red Sea have quadrupled global shipping costs and cut cargo movement by 30 percent.
Oleg Kobyakov, director of the office for liaison with Russia at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told the Russian news agency TASS that what he called the Houthis’ “blockade” of the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait has led to an increase in the price of goods across the globe, hurt the movement of goods, increased fuel bills for ships by an average of 15 percent, and pushed many shipping companies into taking the “8,000 km” route through the Cape of Good Hope to travel between Asia and Europe to avoid Houthi attacks.
“The blockade of Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea by the Houthis is hurting global food trade. The cost of chartering a ship to travel along this route has almost quadrupled while cargo traffic has dropped by 30 percent,” he said.
Since November, the Houthis have targeted scores of commercial and naval ships going through international seas near Yemen, seized a commercial ship, and blocked the Red Sea before all Israel-bound ships. The Houthis claim their assaults are intended to push Israel to break its embargo on Gaza.
On Feb. 18, Houthi missiles targeted the MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship, severely damaging it and triggering a big oil leak in the Red Sea.
The ship, carrying more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, sank on Saturday, raising global fears about a possible environmental disaster in the Red Sea as well as hazards to trade along the critical route.
Similarly, the Houthis have accused the US of exaggerating the environmental damage of the ship and its contents.
The ship’s around 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer are good for fish and coral reefs, as well as helping plants grow in seawater, according to Houthi media official Nasr Al-Din Amer, who purportedly cited a study by an “international” fertilizer production business.
Amer said in a post on X that the study “refutes American propaganda about the ‘Red Sea disaster.’”
Meanwhile, the Houthis have announced the mobilization of thousands of fighters in the central province of Marib under the banner of “supporting people in Palestine,” raising concerns in Yemen that the Houthis are using public outrage over Israel’s war in Gaza to resume a military offensive in Marib.
The Houthis said on Sunday that 4,000 of their armed militants journeyed for three days and 100 km from the Harf Sufyan District in the province of Amran to Marib’s Majzar District, where they would settle in preparation for instructions from their commanders to “reinforce” Palestinians.
Another 2,500 infantry Houthi men marched from the same Amran province to Marib on Saturday, allegedly to help Palestinians, according to Houthi official media.
Between January 2021 and April 2022, thousands of civilians and combatants were killed in the province of Marib when the Houthis began a massive military assault to capture control of the region.
Despite moving closer to the city, the Houthis lost thousands of men, failed to seize Marib, and were forced to halt their attack in April 2022 under a UN-brokered ceasefire.
With the current Houthi military rallies outside Marib, Yemen’s government authorities have raised the alarm about a possible Houthi assault on the city under the pretext of battling Israel.