THE US Navy has asked Australia to send a warship to the Red Sea.

Global media have reported the request is for the vessel to join an international task force following a rise in attacks against commercial ships in the region.

The latest reported incident is of a bulk carrier and a tanker being shot at off the coast of Yemen. And earlier this week, a missile hit a tanker in the Red Sea.

Yemen’s Houthi militia recently announced it would target all ships sailing to Israel, regardless of nationality, and warned ships and companies to avoid dealing with Israeli ports.

The prime ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Canada in a statement this week highlighted their concern around the impact of conflict spilling across the region.

“We call on the Houthis to cease immediately their attacks on international shipping and crew operating in the Red Sea,” they said.

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim said on Tuesday that recent reports of threats made to commercial shipping in the Red Sea were “extremely alarming” and unacceptable.

“Commercial shipping should never be a collateral victim of geopolitical conflicts,” Mr Lim said.

“Any attack on commercial shipping is contrary to international maritime law, including laws which protect the freedom of navigation.”

“Any action which might adversely affect shipping engaged in international trade must be avoided.”

Mr Lim encouraged member states to work together to ensure unhindered and safe global navigation.

“Ships, cargoes and seafarers must be protected at all times,” he said.