Crisis in Red Sea

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Crisis in Red Sea Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Red Sea?
  • Who are Houthis?
  • Trouble in Red Sea and Impact on India

Why in news?

  • In the latest in a series of attacks on commercial vessels in the western Arabian Sea by the Houthi rebels, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Marlin Luanda came under a missile attack.
    • The vessel had 22 Indian and one Bangladeshi crew members on board.
    • While the ship was learnt to have caught fire and reported damage, no casualty or injury was reported at the time.
  • It prompted a quick response from the Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, which was deployed in the Gulf of Aden.

What is Red Sea?

  • About:
    • Red Sea is narrow strip of water extending southeastward from Suez, Egypt, to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
      • Bab-el-Mandeb Strait connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Sea via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
    • Basically, it is a narrow inland sea between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
      • The Red Sea separates the coasts of Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea from those of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
    • The Gulf of Aqaba, a northeastern extension of the sea, reaches southern Israel and southwestern Jordan.
  • Significance
    • The Red Sea contains some of the world’s hottest and saltiest seawater.
    • It is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the world, carrying maritime traffic between Europe and Asia.
  • Significance for India
    • Freight rates for Indian shipments headed to Europe and Africa could surge as much as 25-30 per cent if there is disruption along this route.
      • For India, the Red Sea trade route is the shortest trade route for ships moving from Asia to Europe.
      • India is heavily reliant on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait for its crude oil, LNG imports and trade with parts of West Asia, Africa, and Europe.
    • This route is vital for 30 per cent of global container traffic.

Who are Houthis?

  • About
    • The Houthis are a Shiite Muslim sect and political and military organization that emerged in Yemen (which is predominantly Sunni) in the 1990s.
      • Named after the Houthi tribe, they are Zaydi Shias.
      • Zayadism is a sub-sect of Shia Islam and it believes in following the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad’s family, as the political leader of the state.
    • The Houthis are also known as Ansar Allah, which translates to "Supporters of God".
  • Involvement in civil war of Yemen
    • The Houthis are one side of the Yemeni civil war that has raged for nearly a decade.
    • Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a.
    • By early 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states and with U.S. support, was launching airstrikes against the Houthis, who are backed by Iran.
    • A ceasefire was finally signed in 2022. It lapsed after six months but the warring parties haven’t returned to full-scale conflict.
  • Houthis attacking Red Sea ships
    • The Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen have been attacking ships in the Red Sea in response to Israel's military campaign in Gaza.
    • The Houthis support Hamas, and vowed on November 19 to target vessels they believe are heading to and from Israel.

Trouble in Red Sea and Impact on India

  • Trouble in Red Sea
    • Attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea since November 2023 by the Houthi militia of Yemen have increased.
    • It has turned the quickest marine route linking Asia with Europe through the Suez Canal unsafe.
    • It has forced freighters to take a longer transit around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip, making shipments both dearer and longer to deliver.
  • Status
    • Almost 90% of western hemisphere cargo, both inbound or shipped from India, that used to go through the Red Sea is now getting re-routed through the Cape of Good Hope.
    • The remaining 10% of Indian import or export cargo is either not moving or using a transit facility.
    • Container Corporation of India said that about 25% of its containers are being held back by Indian exporters as everybody is hoping the situation will normalise shortly.
  • Impact on India
    • Besides the extra time taken on account of the longer route, the developments could make imports costlier and call for better inventory management.
    • The Red Sea crisis could come in the way of any plans to reduce pump prices of petrol and diesel.
    • Freight rates for impacted routes have increased.
      • War risk premiums in the Red Sea have been partially contributing to the freight-rate increases for the relevant routes.
    • Commodities are the worst affected whether it be chemicals, plastic, petrochemicals, because margins are not there to absorb the hike in freight.

Q1) What is Cape of Good Hope?

The Cape of Good Hope is a place near the far south end of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet. It is a well known area for ships that pass in the sea between southern Africa and Antarctica.

Q2) What is Bab-el-Mandeb?

The Bab-el-Mandeb is a 20-mile wide strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It's located between Yemen and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.

Source: Indian Navy helps douse fire on UK oil tanker attacked by Houthis in Gulf of Aden | The Hindu | Indian Express