THE UNITED States has set up a multinational security initiative to address the security threat against ships in the Red Sea.

Operation Prosperity Guardian aims to ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and strengthen regional security.

It was set up under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea.

The announcement came as two more ships were reported attacked, adding to a growing list of vessels targeted in the region.

Yemen’s Houthi militia has claimed responsibility for these latest attacks against the containership MSC Clara and the Norwegian-owned tanker Swan Atlantic.

“The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” US secretary of defense Lloyd Austin said.

“The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade,” he said.

“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters.”

Operation Prosperity Guardian comprises Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles Spain, the UK and the US.

The World Shipping Council thanked the members of the Operation Prosperity Guardian coalition for their “action to protect seafarers and trade” in the Red Sea region.

“We are grateful that these nations have come together to protect seafarers and the vessels on which they serve, and we hope that the coalition will succeed in creating the necessary conditions for safe passage through the Red Sea,” WSC said.

WSC said it also calls upon the global community to continue to “pursue every possible diplomatic effort” in support of security in and safe navigation through this region that is vital to international trade.

“On behalf of our member carriers, I particularly want to stress the importance of the coalition’s action to defend the safety and lives of our seafarers – the thousands of men and women from around the world who every day ensure vessels carrying food, medicines, humanitarian supplies, and goods of all kinds safely reach their destination ports on every continent,” World Shipping Council CEO John Butler said.

BIMCO secretary general and CEO David Loosley, who also called for joint efforts between nations to protect international shipping, said seafarers “should not be risking their lives while doing their job and keeping the world supplied”.

BIMCO noted around 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal, representing 30% of all global container traffic and over US$1 trillion worth of goods per year.