YEMEN’S Ansar Allah has launched another wave of attacks against ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in recent days. Crews have abandoned ships, and one seafarer was still missing as of Monday (17 June).

Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, last week struck the bulk carriers Verbena and Tutor. And on Sunday 16 June the militia said it had targeted the tankers Captain Paris (Malta-flagged) and Happy Condor (Danish-flagged) with ballistic missiles and drones, respectively.

Verbena is a Palau-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated vessel, according to US Central Command. It was on its way from Malaysia to Italy on 13 June when Ansar Allah attacked the ship with two anti-ship cruise missiles.

The attacks damaged the vessel and caused fires on board. One seafarer was severely injured.

Tutor is a Liberian-flagged, Greek owned and operated bulker. Centcom said Ansar Allah struck the ship with an uncrewed surface vessel on 12 June, resulting in severe flooding and damage to the engine room.

There were 22 Filipino seafarers on board at the time of the attack. USS Philippine Sea rescued 21 crewmembers, who were due to arrive in Manila today (17 June). A 16 June update from the Office of the President of the Philippines indicates one crewmember “remains missing aboard the vessel”, and search operation were still underway.

“This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” Centcom said in a statement on the Tutor and Verbena attacks.

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Arsenio Dominguez said he was “appalled” that seafarers going about their work are still being targeted and injured.

“I am truly saddened to learn that one crew member is currently unaccounted for on merchant vessel Tutor, following an attack on the ship in the Red Sea,” he said.

“I demand all governments and relevant organizations to provide maximum assistance to seafarers affected, and to spare no effort in finding a resolution to this crisis.

“This situation cannot go on. Everybody is going to feel the negative effect if international shipping is not able to trade as normal. But our commitment is, above all, safeguarding the safety of all seafarers.”

The cost of the ongoing threat against commercial shipping in the Red Sea region continues to mount as shipping companies sail around the Cape of Good Hope. The US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a threat report on 13 June outlining the effect of the attacks on international trade.

The report, Yemen: Houthi Attacks Placing Pressure on International Trade, found at least 65 countries’ interests have been affected by the attacks, and at least 29 major energy and shipping companies have altered their routes to avoid attacks.

“These attacks have endangered crews, damaged regional security, impeded international humanitarian relief efforts, threatened freedom of navigation, and increased the cost and transit times for commercial shipping,” the agency said.

Maersk on 12 June said the alternative route adds approximately 4000 miles to the total voyage length, resulting in longer voyage times and higher operational expenses.

“Currently, we are experiencing an average 40% increase in fuel costs compared to when we sail through the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden,” Maersk said.

“With roughly 30% of global container traffic typically passing through the Suez Canal, changing to longer routes has severely disrupted global trade. For example, with vessels tied up on longer journeys, we estimate there has been a 15-20% reduction in available industry-wide capacity in Q2 of 2024.

“The situation is also causing delays and congestion in key ports, including Singapore, Ningbo and Shanghai. Operational bottlenecks, vessel bunching, as well as equipment and capacity shortages are all leading to delays.

“We anticipate that the disruptions will continue into the second half of 2024.”