FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Shipping firm Maersk says it is preparing to allow vessels to resume sailing through the Red Sea, thanks to the start of a U.S.-led multinational naval operation to protect shipping from attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Houthi attacks have led to a major disruption of shipping through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, one of the most important arteries for trade in oil, natural gas, grain and consumer goods between Europe and Asia.
Maersk said in a statement Sunday that “we have received confirmation that the previously announced multi-national security initiative Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) has now been set up and deployed to allow maritime commerce to pass through the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden and once again return to using the Suez Canal as a gateway between Asia and Europe. ”
The company said it was working on plans for the first vessels to make the journey “and for this to happen as soon as operationally possible.”
The Houthis are Iranian-backed rebels who seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014, launching a grinding war against a Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore the government. The Houthis have sporadically targeted ships in the region, but the attacks have increased since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
The rebels have threatened to attack any vessel they believe is either going to or coming from Israel. That has escalated to apparently any vessel, with container ships and oil tankers flagged to countries like Norway and Liberia being attacked or drawing missile fire.
Major shipping companies include Maersk have been avoiding the Red Sea and sending their ships around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. That added what analysts say could be a week to two weeks of voyages. The disruption also hiked fuel and insurance costs.