Shipping giants have avoided transiting the Red Sea after attacks

Known as the “highway of the sea”, it connects the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean, and therefore Europe with Asia, along which some 20,000 ships circulate each year.

Attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen against international shipping in the Red Sea have disrupted global trade.

However, US officials say a combination of airstrikes and naval convoys is allowing thousands of ships to continue their journey unscathed.

In the last three months, an estimated 4,677 cargo ships have transited the Red Sea, the US Department of Defense told VOA.

Of those, 423 ships passed under the protection of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a US-led coalition of about 20 countries that includes the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

“This is something we will continue to maintain,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday.

“The Red Sea is a vital waterway: 15% of world trade passes through it,” explained Ryder, who called the Houthi attacks “illegal and reckless.”

Attacks in Red Sea

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro told lawmakers that there have been “at least 48 attacks on commercial vessels and warships in and around the Red Sea” since November 19.

About 15 commercial ships, including four American ships, have suffered at least some damage due to Houthi attacks.

More than a dozen major shipping companies have suspended their transit through that route.