Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond has entered the fray, bolstering the international task force that shields trade routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. 

As Houthi threats escalate, the multinational coalition, including US and French warships, is on a mission to secure freedom of navigation and counter illicit non-state actors jeopardising global maritime trade.

In response to a surge in Houthi attacks on commercial vessels, HMS Diamond, the Royal Navy’s destroyer, has joined Operation Prosperity Guardian. This new international task force, comprising three US destroyers and supported by a French warship, is focused on ensuring freedom of navigation in the increasingly volatile Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

In recent events, Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the British-owned, Japanese-operated cargo vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea, alleging ties to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar. The Houthi group, declaring war on Israel, aims to target ships associated with Israeli companies. The Israel Defence Forces label the hijacking as an “Iranian act of terrorism,” leading to heightened tensions. 

Concurrently, the threat of the Israel-Hamas conflict expanding is evident, with a week of missile and drone attacks on US naval warships and Western-linked commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden occurring at the beginning of December. The UK deploys a Royal Navy destroyer to bolster maritime security, emphasising the escalating complexity of regional tensions.

The rising security concerns stem from Houthi attacks involving ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial systems targeting global shipping, prompting operators like Maersk and BP to halt sailing through the region temporarily. The impact on international trade has become more pronounced, with increased costs and extended journey times.

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To address the escalating crisis, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps led a virtual meeting with counterparts worldwide, culminating in the launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian. The coalition aims to tackle the international problem affecting global trade and avert economic consequences resulting from the illicit attacks on shipping.

Shapps emphasised the significance of an international solution, stating, “These illegal attacks are an unacceptable threat to the global economy, undermining regional security and threatening to drive up fuel prices.” HMS Diamond, having shot down a suspected attack drone targeting merchant shipping, exemplifies the UK’s commitment to upholding peace in the region.

As HMS Diamond arrived in the Red Sea, concerns over maritime security at chokepoints worldwide were underscored. The ship’s deployment aligns with the UK’s commitment to supporting regional safety, protecting key shipping lanes, and contributing to the global maritime commons.

The coalition, operating under the existing construct of the Coalition Maritime Force in the Gulf, includes the UK’s Operation Kipion. Besides HMS Diamond, HMS Lancaster, mine-hunting vessels, and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship collectively work to maintain open trade routes for the Middle East. This collaborative effort seeks to safeguard trade routes amid escalating threats to maritime security.