A COALITION of governments, supported by Australia, has launched another round of strikes against Yemen’s Ansar Allah in response to attacks on Red Sea shipping.

The U.S. Department of Defense said the militaries of the US and UK, backed by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and NZ, carried out “proportionate and necessary” strikes on 36 targets in Yemen on 3 February.

Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthi movement, has been attacking ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since the initial Galaxy Leader hijacking in November last year. US an UK military forces led the initial coalition strike against the militia on 11 January and another on 22 January.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi actions … including the January 27 attack which struck and set ablaze the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker MV Marlin Luanda,” the coalition said in a joint statement on 3 February.

“Today’s strike specifically targeted sites associated with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, and radars,” it said.

“The Houthis now more than 30 attacks on commercial vessels and naval vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge.

“Recognising the broad consensus of the international community, our coalition of likeminded countries committed to upholding the rules-based order has continued to grow.

“We remain committed to protecting freedom of navigation and international commerce and holding the Houthis accountable for their illegal and unjustifiable attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels.”

The coalition said the goal is to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea.

“But let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”

And International Maritime Organization secretary-general Arsenio Dominguez has again condemned the attacks in the Red Sea, calling for freedom of navigation in the area. He also highlighted the risks to seafarers.

Trade volume through the Suez Canal has fallen by 42% over the last two months, according to estimates by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Ocean freight rates are continuing to rise as shipping lines suspend Red Sea voyages and diverting ships around the Cape of Good Hope.

Benchmarking platform Xeneta said the “Red Sea crisis” has seen ocean freight rates increase faster than in the early months of the covid pandemic.

On 30 January Xeneta released data indicating that shipping costs on key trades from the Far East to Europe spiked more than 200% in the first 52 days of the crisis.

“Rates have not hit anywhere near the levels we saw during Covid-19, but the sudden nature of the Red Sea crisis has seen a more rapid increase in rates, which is arguably creating even more disruption than during the early months of the pandemic,” Xeneta market analyst Emily Stausbøll said.

“It is inevitable that rates will come down once carriers are able to deal with the capacity crunch in the Far East resulting from ships being delayed returning from Europe via the Cape of Good Hope,” she said.

Xeneta does not expect the impact of the Red Sea situation to be as prolonged as that of the pandemic.