IMO calls for ceasefire as Red Sea volatility slows European industry

IMO calls for ceasefire as Red Sea volatility slows European industry
IMO calls for ceasefire as Red Sea volatility slows European industry

The head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) says the volatile situation in the Red Sea must return to normal as quickly as possible and that a ceasefire in Gaza would be a welcome development.

Secretary General Arsenio Dominguez spoke to CGTN Europe’s Iolo ap Dafydd in London, following a press conference where he outlined the IMO’s priorities for 2024.

Attacks on cargo ships by the Houthi group in Yemen have disrupted international commerce on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea./Houthi Military Media/Reuters

The Red Sea normally accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s maritime traffic. But companies have had to re-route to avoid the now dangerous waterway, adding delays and costs into supply chains.

Arsenio Dominguez condemned the attacks and says the safety of seafarers is paramount. He says the IMO is constantly working on operational measures for ships, including additional security, “In the past we have adopted operational scenarios and operational measures in order for the industry to be prepared to deter acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships.

“We are utilizing those measures, but gathering additional experience, updating the kind of threats that are happening right now,” he explained. “For example, privately armed security personnel on board vessels was something that it was introduced as a recommendation during the height of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

IMO Secretary-General calls for immediate release of seized ship and crew  in the Red Sea - Sea News

And it’s something that we’ve seen that is coming back. Another measure has been for them to divert around the south of Africa.”

The impact of the re-routing is often felt weeks later – but it seems to be escalating. Major U.S. shipping firms warned of increased congestion at some of the country’s container ports over the next four to six weeks, due to delivery backlogs. Production at Tesla’s factory near Berlin remains suspended until at least February 11 due to a lack of components while Chinese carmaker Geely says its electric vehicle sales will likely be impacted by a delay in deliveries.

Volvo has already enforced a three-day shutdown of its Belgium plant, French tiremaker Michelin suspended work at four factories in Spain and Japanese automaker Suzuki halted production in Hungary for a week in January.

Global energy firms like BP, Shell, QatarEnergy and Equinor have also paused all transits via the Red Sea, while a host of big manufacturers and retailers have warned of a long-lasting impact on customers.

So far, airstrikes by the U.S. and the United Kingdom against Houthi positions appear to have had little affect. The group has continued to launch attacks and has remained publicly defiant. Arsenio Dominguez says a solution can only be achieved politically.

“Bringing the parties together, getting those member states that are part of the negotiations, that understand the root causes creating what is happening in the Red sea, to sit down around the table, to use the United Nations, to use the Security Council to understand what solutions need to be put in place, and to continue that dialog,” he said. “A ceasefire would be very welcome.”

That seems less likely as the U.S. launched strikes on sites in Iraq and Syria on Friday night. President Joe Biden said it was in response to drone strikes that killed three U.S. service personnel last week.


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