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Ships entering Yemeni waters must obtain permit, Houthi Minister says

March 5, 2024 at 3:04 pm

A ship transits the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea on January 10, 2024 in Ismailia, Egypt [Sayed Hassan/Getty Images]

Ships will have to obtain a permit from Yemen’s Houthi-controlled Maritime Affairs Authority before entering Yemeni waters, Houthi Telecommunications Minister, Misfer Al-Numair said on Monday, Reuters reports.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against Israel-linked international commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians against Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The near-daily attacks have forced firms into long and costly diversions around southern Africa, and stoked fears that the Israel-Palestine war could destabilise the wider Middle East. The United States and Britain have bombed Houthi targets in response.

“(We) are ready to assist requests for permits and identify ships with the Yemeni Navy, and we confirm this is out of concern for their safety,” Al Masirah TV, the main television news outlet run by Yemen’s d Houthi movement, reported Al-Numair as saying.

READ: Fresh US-British airstrikes target Houthi sites in Yemen

The territorial waters affected by the Yemeni order extend halfway out into the 20-km (12-mile) wide Bab Al-Mandab Strait, the narrow mouth of the Red Sea through which around 15 per cent of the world’s shipping traffic passes on its way to or from the Suez Canal.

In normal times, more than a quarter of global container cargo – including apparel, appliances, auto parts, chemicals and agricultural products, like coffee – move via the Suez Canal.

Former US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said there “is good reason to doubt” that the Houthis would stop their assaults on vessels if a ceasefire ends Israel’s major military operations in Gaza.

“They may decide that they like the idea of controlling the amount of shipping going through the Red Sea, and will continue this for an indefinite period of time,” Gates said at the TPM24 container shipping conference in Long Beach, California.

Elsewhere on Monday, Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications said that at least four underwater communications cables – Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, Seacom and TGN-Gulf – had been damaged last week in the Red Sea, without stating the cause.

It estimated that the damage had affected 25 per cent of the data traffic flowing under the Red Sea, and said in a statement that it had devised a plan to reroute traffic.

Al-Numair’s Ministry, on Saturday, blamed US and British attacks for any damage to cables.

In the latest incident, the UK Maritime Trade Operations agency said, on Monday, it had received a report that a vessel had been damaged by two explosions, 91 nautical miles south-east of Aden, but there were no casualties and the vessel was proceeding to its next port of call.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014. The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in 2015, aiming to restore the government.

READ: Yemen’s Houthis: ‘Release detained crew of seized ship only if Hamas agrees’