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European vessel owners launch defensive maritime security operation in the Red Sea

In response to increasing threats targeting commercial shipping, the European Union (EU) Council officially initiated the EU's defensive maritime security operation in the Red Sea on 19 February.

Operation ASPIDES, which commenced on 19 February, is tasked with providing defensive measures to accompany and safeguard commercial vessels in the region against potential maritime attacks.

European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA), representing 21 national ship owners' associations within the EU and Norway, oversees a significant portion of the global commercial fleet, with European ship owners commanding 39.5% of this fleet.

Their contributions amount to a substantial US$160 billion annually to the EU GDP, supporting the livelihoods of 2 million individuals both at sea and onshore. ECSA is committed to advocating for regulatory frameworks that enhance the international competitiveness of European shipping, ultimately advancing the interests of the EU.

According to ECSA, given the Red Sea's significance as a vital route for European trade and the EU's global connectivity, safeguarding key shipping routes and upholding the principle of freedom of navigation is crucial to ensure Europe's energy, food, and supply chain security.

"European ship owners strongly welcome today's announcement which officially launched the new European maritime security operation in the Red Sea. The escalating situation in the area puts our seafarers in danger on a daily basis and is increasingly impacting Europe's supply chain and overall economic security. The European presence in the area through the deployment of Operation ASPIDES is essential to address the security risks for commercial shipping and will contribute to keeping our seafarers safe. We encourage and support all coordinated efforts, including diplomatic, contributing to the de-escalation of the crisis in the area," stated Sotiris Raptis, ECSA's secretary general.

Moreover, Operation EUNAVFOR ASPIDES will operate across major sea lanes in strategic areas such as the Baab al-Mandab Strait and the Strait of Hormuz, as well as international waters encompassing the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf.

Heading the operation, commodore Vasilios Griparis will serve as the Operation commander, with rear admiral Stefano Costantino appointed as the force commander. The operational headquarters will be located in Larissa, Greece.

In addition, Operation ASPIDES will closely coordinate with EUNAVFOR ATALANTA to enhance maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, collaborating with like-minded partners in its operational domain.

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