Global trade organizations make joint call for safe shipping in the Red Sea

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by Emily Atkins

A group of over 100  global trade organizations has called on countries to join, support, or align with the mission to support safe and secure maritime commerce in the Red Sea.

In an open letter called the “Global Maritime Security Joint Letter”, the groups expressed support for Operation Prosperity Guardian, the US-led multinational security initiative with at least 23 participating countries, including Canada.

“Alignment around such efforts ensures that the world’s governments can work together to defend maritime security not only in the Red Sea but also across the globe,” the letter says. “It is imperative that governments unite behind a zero-tolerance approach to deter attacks on commercial vessels and seafarers in the Red Sea, and anywhere in the world. The
prosperity of millions of people who are employed in our industries and in the global maritime industry depends on safe and secure freedom of navigation.”

The crisis unfolding in the Red Sea and Suez Canal has reverberated across the maritime sector, inflicting significant disruptions and economic repercussions. Attacks on carriers navigating these vital waterways have not only endangered lives but also disrupted supply chains, leading to extended transit times and soaring freight rates. The turmoil has far-reaching implications for industries reliant on efficient maritime transportation, including the textile recycling and secondhand apparel sector, said Steve Rees, president of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) Association, one of the letter’s signatories, in a statement.

These attacks have already caused upwards of US$80 billion in cargo to be diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. Travelling around the Cape of Good Hope adds at least two  to three weeks of travel and hundreds of thousands in additional fuel and labour costs compared to the Suez Canal route. This alternative route becomes even more challenging during the Southern Hemisphere winter months.

The letter adds: “The consequences of these attacks extend beyond immediate financial losses. Route changes are causing port congestion, equipment shortages, and soaring shipping rates across the globe, all of which create inflationary impacts. Even shipping lanes on the other side of the world from the Red Sea are beginning to be adversely affected. The ripple effects in cost and capacity issues for the industries that depend upon safe and secure maritime commerce are incalculable,
particularly since global transportation is already strained from reduced access to the drought-ridden Panama Canal.”

“At the heart of this response is the imperative to protect the sanctity of maritime trade on a global scale. The coalition formed to address the crisis represents a crucial step towards this goal, but it requires broader participation and commitment from the international community. It is incumbent upon every nation, mainly those directly impacted by the crisis, to actively engage and collaborate within this framework,” Rees added.

Signatories to the open letter include the Retail Council of Canada, Shoe Manufacturers’ Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers and CSCMP – Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, along with industry associations and trade groups of all kinds.