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Houthi Attacks and their Impact on Red Sea and Suez Canal’s Security

Maritime transport represents one of the pillars of economic development and the artery of the global economy for various countries of the world, as it transports 90% of the total volume of global trade. Ports and the maritime commercial fleet play a major role in facilitating the movement of goods, reducing transport prices, and driving economic development and the global logistics system.

Navigation disturbances in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden constitute a direct threat to the safety of navigation in the Suez Canal, and thus lead to a decrease in Suez Canal revenues and damage to the Egyptian economy, especially after there was much talk about the possibility of some shipping lines moving to using the Cape of Good Hope route in light of the continuing of instability In the region.

This research paper discusses the impact of instability in the Red Sea on the Suez Canal, especially in light of the Houthi attacks, in addition to the economic returns from the new Suez Canal project, the development and reform efforts made by the Egyptian state to achieve greater returns on the national economy, and finally the most prominent projects that It threatens the status and importance of the Suez Canal at the global level.

The first axis: Houthi attacks on the Red Sea

Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, particularly those linked to Israel, have prompted some companies to divert their ships away from the Suez Canal and the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait. These ships have been seen taking a longer route around the Cape of Good Hope to reach Europe and Asia, which increases their transit time

Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have escalated the war in Gaza and endangered international trade in one of the world’s most important shipping lanes. There is certainly an ideological element to the attacks on commercial ships, as they allow the Houthis to reposition themselves as a major regional supporter of the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation. But these attacks are also part of the Houthis’ political strategy to maintain and expand their power inside Yemen.

The Houthi attacks, which are currently focusing more on ships with ties to the Israeli occupation state, are not new. Between 2021 and 2023, drone attacks attributed to Iran targeted some ships linked to Israeli authorities, including in the Arabian Sea near Oman. But the Gaza war has raised the level of these threats, as the Houthis use new methods to target commercial ships.

Washington announced the formation of an international coalition of ten countries to protect the security of the Red Sea, with the aim of countering Houthi attacks; but there are undeclared goals such as militarizing the Red Sea, making it a zone of influence for it, controlling Bab al-Mandeb, and introducing the largest amount of American troops to the region, to allow it to maneuver politically and protect Israel’s security by finding an imaginary enemy and taking advantage of it, as happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Red Sea has become the subject of great international competition due to the presence of 11 military bases in the Horn of Africa near its entrance.

Global energy security and dry goods trade are at risk, especially in Europe, if Houthi attacks escalate.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, northbound crude oil transports via two main routes to the Mediterranean – the Suez Canal and Egypt’s SUMED pipeline – increased by more than 60% during the first half of this year compared to 2020, with demand recovering in Europe and the United States in the wake of the “Covid-19” pandemic.

Economists say that the continuation of the attacks will contribute to the deterioration of global trade and put it in great trouble. It will also confuse shipping companies in the short and long term, which will negatively affect the global economy and cause a new, imminent shock, as this vital sector witnessed during the Covid-19 epidemic.

The second axis: The Suez Canal, development opportunities, and the threats it faces

The importance of the New Suez Canal lies in the positive return it brings to the Egyptian economy. It has contributed to enhancing confidence and increasing the value of the national economy by providing investment opportunities for local and foreign companies, which has led to an increase in the canal’s income from foreign currencies and the provision of new job opportunities for citizens, in addition to its role The project aims to facilitate the movement of commercial ships and provide the greatest possible amount of safety to protect them.

The achievements of the construction of the new Suez Canal, according to the website of the Suez Canal Authority, are as follows:

1-increasing the discharge capacity of the canal to reach 97 standard vessels / day compared to about 77 standard vessels / day before the opening of the new canal.

2-achieving direct transit of 45 ships in both directions while reducing the transit time to be 11 hours instead of 18 hours for the northern convoy and joining the second Northern convoy to the first Northern convoy to make the transit one Northern convoy and one Southern convoy only.

3-allowing the passage of ships up to a submersible of 66 feet in both directions, especially in light of the continuous increase of ships with a submersible of 45 feet and more, which contributed to attracting giant ships in the World Trade fleet to cross the canal.

4-achieving navigational safety by having an alternative channel that ensures that navigation does not stop when any emergency incident occurs.

5-reducing the number of bends in the canal’s navigational course, which led to an increase in the rates of navigational safety for ships transiting the canal.

6-maintaining the competitive position of the Suez Canal by continuing to develop the navigation of the canal in the light of development projects that are carried out in competitive and alternative ways, whether sea or land .

The consequences of the new Suez Canal project and the economic return:

1- Increasing job opportunities for the people of the Canal cities, Sinai, and neighboring governorates, while creating new urban communities.

2- Maximizing the competitive capabilities of the canal and distinguishing it from similar channels as a result of increasing navigational safety rates during the passage of ships.

3- Increasing the canal’s capacity and increasing the number of passing ships to 97 ships in 2023 instead of 49 ships in 2014.

4-Increasing the revenues of the Suez Canal, as the canal’s navigation reports recorded during the seven years following its opening (2016-2022), also recorded the highest annual revenue of $8 billion, exceeding all numbers that had been recorded before and the highest annual net tonnage of 1.4 billion tons.

5- It is also clear that there has been an increase in the number of oil tankers transiting the Suez Canal starting from (2019-2022).

The new Suez Canal project and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030

– we can say that this project has succeeded in achieving some Sustainable Development Goals such as :

– Sixth goal: clean water and sanitation The plan for the Port Said tunnels project included the construction of a sewage treatment plant with a capacity of 500 cubic meters per day.

– The seventh goal : clean and affordable energy

The New Ismailia city relies on alternative energy sources produced from wind in addition to electrical sources.

– Eighth goal: decent work and economic growth
We note that the establishment of the New Ismailia governorate provides more than one hundred thousand job opportunities at least during the construction period, and the new Suez Canal project has increased job opportunities for the people of the canal cities, Sinai and neighboring governorates .

-Ninth goal: industry, innovation and infrastructure
By creating a set of floating bridges and tunnels of the Suez Canal.

Weak points in the new Suez Canal project:

The course of the Suez Canal has witnessed some incidents of disruption to navigation due to ships running aground or certain malfunctions in ship engines while crossing the canal. Among these incidents are:

-The giant container carrier “Evergreen” ran aground, and after 6 days, tugs and dredgers succeeded in refloating it.

-The Tugboat Fahd, belonging to the Suez Canal Authority, sank after it collided with a liquefied petroleum gas tanker, “China Gas Legend,” flying the Hong Kong flag. It was passing through the Al-Balah area within the shipping lane north of Ismailia Governorate.

-Collision between the Singapore-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker BW Lesmes and the Cayman Islands-flagged Puri oil products tanker in the canal’s waterway.

Efforts for development and reform :

The Suez Canal authority adopts a national strategy until 2030, based mainly on the development of the canal’s navigational channel, especially the Suez Canal duplication project, which includes the canal duplication project in the lesser bitter Lakes region with a length of 10 km from kilo 122 to Kilo 132 numbering the canal, and the length of the new Suez Canal targeted by the project is 82 km instead of 72 km.

At the executive level of the canal duplication project, according to a report issued by the media center of the Council of ministers, 33 million m3 of saturated sand has been removed from the water, bringing the completion rate of dredging works to 53.5%, and 4 dredgers are working on the project.

According to the report, the Suez Canal development and duplication projects include the expansion and deepening of the southern area of the canal, where the length of the project is 30 km from kilo 132 to Kilo 162 numbering the canal, and its width is 40 meters east and depth is 27 meters instead of 24 meters, and the development project allows increasing navigational safety by 28%, in addition to increasing the capacity in that area by 6 additional vessels.

The most prominent projects that threaten the Suez Canal:

1- Oil pipelines in the Arab region, which represent a strong competitor to the Suez Canal and the volume of oil trade passing through it. These lines consist of 5 pipelines with a capacity of about 362.5 million tons annually, and if they are operated at full capacity, they will greatly affect the quantities of oil transported through Suez, especially since transporting oil through pipelines is much cheaper than sea transport.
1.Iraq (Kirkuk)-Turkey (Ceyhan) pipeline.
2. Israel (Eilat) – Palestine (Ashkelon) pipeline.
3. Pipeline (Kirkuk) – Syria (Baniyas).
4.Iraq-Lebanon pipeline.
5.Saudi-Lebanon pipeline.

2 – Northern Sea Road:
It is a maritime shipping corridor linking the Asian and European continents and passes through Russia, Iran, and India. It represents a strong competition to the Suez Canal route, as it is 40% shorter than the transportation route through the Suez Canal, and it has a number of advantages, as its shortened route allows for reducing not only time but also Fuel costs, which helps reduce human pressure in transportation companies.

3- Ashdod Port:
The port is located in the coastal city of Ashdod, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an Israeli project approved in 2014, and is usually used to deliver aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.

4 – Dead Sea Canal:
A canal to connect the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, approved in 2013, is a Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli project.

5-North-south corridor :
It is an economic corridor from India to Europe, it is 7200 kilometers, from ships, railways, road routes, and is intended for the transportation of goods, passing through the territory of India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and then Eastern Europe.

Finally, the Red Sea is one of the most important main waterways for navigation and international trade, where more than 16 thousand commercial, tourist and military vessels pass through it annually, and it is relied on for importing oil (30% of world oil production), as well as raw materials for Europe and the United States, and industrial products are exported to Asia, Africa and Australia through it.

The Red Sea has become the pole where the interests and goals of a large group of regional and global States converge and regional and international powers compete to find influence in it to ensure their interests. The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have become of overlapping strategic, economic and security importance that are difficult to separate for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Israel, as well as regional powers such as Turkey and Iran and international powers such as the United States and China.


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