EU launches Red Sea mission to protect cargo ships

EU launches Operation Aspides to defend cargo ships passing through the Red Sea from Houthi attacks

Operation Aspides will be a purely defensive mission to protect cargo ships from Houthi attacks
Operation Aspides will be a purely defensive mission to protect cargo ships from Houthi attacks

The EU formally launched its Red Sea naval mission on Monday in a bid to protect cargo ships from Houthi militant attacks.

EUNAVFOR Aspides was given the go-ahead at a meeting of the EU foreign affairs council that met in Brussels.

The stated objective of this defensive maritime security operation is to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf.

The mission will not carry out attacks on Houthi targets inside Yemen but act in a purely defensive capacity to protect ships from possible attacks.

France, Germany, Italy and Belgium have so far confirmed they plan to contribute ships to the EU mission.

Malta is likely to contribute by having an official from the Armed Forces of Malta stationed at operation headquarters in Larissa, Greece.

Houthi militants have been attacking commercial ships passing through the Baab al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea since October 2023 in response to Israel’s aggression in Gaza. The attacks have forced shipping companies to reroute cargo vessels around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa at a considerably high expense and lengthier delivery times.

“With the launch of EUNAVFOR Aspides, the European Union is responding swiftly to the necessity to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor. The operation will play a key role in safeguarding commercial and security interests, for the sake of the EU and the wider international community,” Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said.

EU foreign ministers agreed that within its defensive mandate, the operation will provide maritime situational awareness, accompany vessels, and protect them against possible multi-domain attacks at sea.

The operation will be active along the main sea lines in the Baab al-Mandab Strait and the Strait of Hormuz, as well as international waters in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf.

The Operation Commander will be Commodore Vasilios Griparis, and the Force Commander will be Rear Admiral Stefano Costantino.