Skip to main content
main content, press tab to continue

Maritime Security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

June 3, 2024

An overview of recent events in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, plus an outlook on the future of maritime security in these waters.
Geopolitical Risk

Since the events of 7 October 2023, renewed conflict between Israel and the militant faction Hamas has been unfolding in the Gaza Strip. Groups linked to Israel’slong-time opponent Iran have been vocal in their support for Hamas and the Palestinian cause, with some also conducting attacks against Israeli assets; such groups include Lebanon-based Hezbollah, the Shia Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) umbrella faction, and the Yemen-based Houthi rebel movement.

Shortly after the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Yemen’s Houthis ‘declared war’ on Israel, and began to launch long-range missiles and weaponized drones at Israel, utilizing the airspace over the Red Sea in order to hit targets in southern Israel. While mostly unsuccessful, the Houthi attacks were symbolic in both their opposition to Israel’s perceived aggression in Gaza, and their support — encouraged by Iran’s strategic goals — for Hamas.

Initially, the Houthis’ response was limited to drone and cruise missile attacks on southern Israel, and represented only a minor threat to regional operations, slightly raising the risk profiles for commercial shipping in the Red Sea but ultimately having little impact on either maritime operations or the security situation in Israel itself. However, in late-November 2023, Houthi militants began to directly target international shipping in the Red Sea, particularly those vessels sailing through the Bab-al-Mandab Strait, focusing on ships owned by Israelis or ships that they believed were en route to Israel. Eventually the scope of Houthi targets was expanded, encompassing commercial shipping that also had links to Israel’s Western allies, especially those linked to the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (U.K.).

In response to the advent of attacks on commercial vessels in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the international community launched Operation Prosperity Guardian; a U.S.-led international maritime task force deployed to the Red Sea in order shield commercial shipping by intercepting and destroying Houthi missiles and drones (the primary weapons used to target vessels in the region). In addition to Operation Prosperity Guardian, in February the European Union initiated its own naval defense taskforce, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announcing the deployment of Naval Force Operation Aspides,which involves the sending of European naval assets and air-defense/air-identification platforms to support the protection of shipping lanes and deter Houthi attacks. In Q1 2024, the U.K. and U.S. also commenced limited strikes on Houthi positions across Yemen, targeting drone and missile storage and launch sites from 11 January. Joint strikes continued into February, while U.S.-only strikes continued into March, and are believed to have had a significant effect, helping to degrade the Houthis’ offensive capabilities and reduce their total stock pile of usable munitions. The initial wave of strikes are thought to have degraded around 20-30% of the Houthis’ offensive capability at the time, though even aftermonths of airstrikes the Yemeni group retains both the capability and intent to carry out attacks on shipping.

To read more, please download the full article by completing the form.


Richard Scurrell
Head of Special Crime, Europe
email Email

Related content tags, list of links Article Marine Marine Geopolitical Risk
Contact us