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ETF update: governments need to work harder to protect Red Sea crews

25 April 2024

Joint working and renewed commitment is needed from the allies defending merchant vessels from Houthi attacks, says Nikolaos Koletsis of the European Transport Workers' Federation

Just a few days before the 6 March attack on the True Confidence, we had been saying at the ETF that it was only a matter of time before seafarers were killed or injured in the Red Sea, and very sadly, we were proved right.

We were calling on the industry to put aside commercial considerations and focus on the safety of seafarers by re-routing vessels away from the Red Sea. This call is now even more important after the recent developments in the area.

As of the middle of April, the number of ships going around the Cape of Good Hope has tripled, but still we see ships sailing through the Red Sea daily, putting the innocent lives of seafarers at risk from attack by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

After the attack on the True Confidence, the International Bargaining Forum has designated the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden 'warlike' areas, with effect from 19 March 2024.

Nikolaos Koletsis is ETF
senior policy officer for
maritime transport

The EU and US military operations Aspides and Prosperity Guardian continue to take place in the area. These operations are not expected to solve the issue in the short term. To address the emerging crisis, there is a need for a coordinated and integrated approach to security in the region for a solution to guarantee stability and the safety of shipping in the area in the long term.

Today, we are amidst a very complex geopolitical environment, and the risk of escalation in the Middle East seems more possible than ever. The EU and its allies need to take initiatives to control the crisis, carefully assess the geopolitical situation and intensify dialogue with the Gulf countries. More concerted efforts are required to address the root causes of the crisis, including coordinated efforts and diplomatic initiatives, contributing to maintaining the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.

It is now nearly six months since the Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader and its 25 crew members in the Red Sea. All efforts must be made by international organisations and states to secure the release of all seafarers – the innocent victims of the ongoing aggression in the Red Sea.


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