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Red Sea Maritime Security Concerns Escalate: Global Trade and Humanitarian Impacts 

Manila | July 01, 2024


Since late 2023, the Red Sea has emerged as a significant hotspot for maritime security concerns due to increased attacks on shipping vessels, primarily by Houthi rebels from Yemen. These attacks have severely disrupted global trade routes, particularly the vital shipping lane through the Suez Canal, which handles approximately 12% of the world’s trade.

Timeline and Key Events

December 2023 – Early 2024: Escalation of Attacks

– December 2023: The Houthi rebels intensify their attacks on ships passing through the Red Sea, employing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM). These actions result in significant disruptions to maritime traffic.

– January – February 2024: Reports indicate a sharp increase in the number of attacks. The Houthi rebels’ actions force many shipping companies to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, adding substantial travel time and costs.

March 2024: Impact on Global Trade

– March 2024: The rerouting of vessels causes a marked increase in shipping costs and transit times. For example, shipping routes from Asia to Europe see an average increase in travel time by 12 days, leading to a 30% increase in transit times and reducing effective global container shipping capacity by around 9%. 

– The cost of shipping on key routes, such as Shanghai-Rotterdam and Shanghai-Genoa, rises significantly, with some routes experiencing a doubling or even a 350% increase in costs.

Mid-2024: Continued Disruptions and Global Responses

– May – June 2024: The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) reports multiple engagements with Houthi-launched UAS and ASBM aimed at disrupting maritime traffic. These efforts are part of broader initiatives to ensure the safety of international waters and protect commercial shipping.

– June 2024: The impact of these disruptions extends to global supply chains, causing increased freight rates and port congestion in alternative routes, such as those around the Cape of Good Hope. Ports like Durban and Cape Town experience higher traffic due to the rerouted ships, exacerbating congestion.

Humanitarian and Economic Impacts

– The ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, with millions facing severe food insecurity. The economic collapse, driven by the conflict and the increased cost of food, disproportionately affects women and children in Yemen.

– The rerouting of vessels around the Cape of Good Hope not only increases transit times and costs but also leads to higher CO2 emissions due to the longer distances traveled, adding an environmental dimension to the crisis.

The situation in the Red Sea remains volatile, with significant implications for global trade and humanitarian conditions in Yemen. The international community continues to seek solutions to mitigate the impacts of these disruptions and ensure the safety of maritime routes.

Contributed by:

Dr. Reno B. Bolivar, MNI


1. Council on Foreign Relations. “How Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea Threaten Global Shipping.” December 2023. Available at: [[“]]

2. Al Jazeera. “Mapping the Red Sea attacks by Yemen’s Houthis.” December 2023. Available at: [Al Jazeera] [[“]]

3. UN News. “Security Council strongly condemns Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping.” January 2024. Available at: [UN News] [[“]]

4. United States Institute of Peace. “Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea Disrupt Global Supply Chains.” January 2024. Available at: [USIP] [[“]]

Categories: News