Op Aspides repels 11 Red Sea attacks in two months

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In less than two months the newest European Union (EU) naval force – Operation Aspides concentrated on the Red Sea – repelled 11 attacks and escorted close to 70 ships in the Indian Ocean inlet between Africa and Asia.

Access to the Red Sea from the south is via the Bab-el-Mandeb strait with the Suez Canal the northern entrance/exit.

Speaking at the first Aspides media briefing, EU Vice President Josep Borrell said the operation was a clear and fast response to the deteriorating situation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The root cause was and remains attacks by Houthis on shipping – merchant and naval – a threat to maritime security as well as violating international law and freedom of navigation, according to the EU supremo.

Houthi attacks, he said, create “significant damage and cost lives” as well as negatively affecting regional economies and environmental security. “This increases costs. The costs of shipped goods are affected. Even the population in Yemen are paying the consequences because they are further deprived from life-saving assistance. It increases the costs of food on economies in the region, already affected by the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”.

Houthi attacks mean maritime traffic was redirected around the Cape of Good Hope – up to 14 days more at sea for a single transit, he told the briefing, adding the cost of a container from China to Europe has doubled with insurance up by 60%.

“So,” Borrell pointed out, “it was necessary to intervene”.

To date Aspides, with four frigates and a maritime patrol aircraft in its arsenal, repelled 11 attacks and provided safe passage to 69 ships by way of escort.

Borrell stressed the defensive aspect of Aspides saying neither it nor the EU was engaged in operations on land against the Houthis – “our vessels operate in self-defence and to protect targeted ships”.

Aspides and the EU co-operate with the United States (US) led Operation Prosperity Guardian and the French led EU tasking Operation Agenor, the military component of EMASoH (European-led Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz). Sister EU operation Atalanta in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is also on the Aspides co-operation list via the EU Maritime Security Centre in the French port city Brest.