According to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the alliance includes Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, England and other countries.
The United States has announced the launch of a multinational force to protect trade in the Red Sea after attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels forced at least a dozen shipping lines to suspend operations.
Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Seychelles and the United Kingdom are among the countries joining the 10-nation “multinational security effort,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday.
“Countries seeking to uphold the fundamental principle of freedom of navigation must come together to meet the challenge of this non-state actor,” Austin said in a statement, describing the attacks as an issue that “demands collective action.”
The announcement comes after the US and UK navies said over the weekend that their destroyers shot down a total of 15 drones in waterways.
Since the start of the war in Gaza, the Iran-aligned Houthis have stepped up drone and missile attacks on ships in key shipping lanes, targeting ships believed to be affiliated with Israel or the Israelis.
The rebel group said on Monday that it used naval drones to attack the Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic and MSC Clara in a show of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
In a statement, Norway’s Inventor Chemical Tankers, the owner of Swan Atlantic, said the vessel had no connection to Israel and was managed by a Singapore company.
No injuries were reported on either vessel.
A senior Houthi official and spokesman, Mohammed al-Buqaidi, told Al Jazeera on Monday that it would confront any US-led coalition in the Red Sea.
More countries are to be added
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Ghairat said the alliance could include Egypt and Jordan as additional Arab countries for shipping because they are interested in ensuring safe passage for ships.
“It is not yet clear whether they will join the fold later. Egypt and Jordan, as well as some GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] Countries including Saudi Arabia are part of the Combined Maritime Forces and will be under the umbrella of this alliance,” Khairat said.
“Reading between the lines, it’s a very difficult situation for some of these Middle Eastern countries. “The closest you have to signing an agreement with the Houthi rebels in Yemen is Saudi Arabia,” he added.
“You have Egypt, which doesn’t want to be seen as going against the Houthis’ message on Gaza — that Israel should stop the war on the enclave.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held a call with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Monday regarding the issue and discussed ways to avoid further conflict.
Blinken “condemned the Houthi’s continued attacks on merchant vessels in international waters in the South Red Sea and urged cooperation among all partners to maintain maritime security,” the US State Department said in a statement after the call.
Austin, who is in Israel, is scheduled to hold talks in Bahrain and Qatar on Tuesday.
Companies avoid the Red Sea
At least 12 shipping companies, including the Italo-Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company, France’s CMA CGM and Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, have suspended traffic through the Red Sea due to security concerns.
On Monday, UK oil major BP became the latest company to announce that it is ditching the water.
“Due to the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily suspend all traffic through the Red Sea,” the company said in a statement.
“We will keep this precautionary suspension under constant review, subject to evolving conditions in the region.”
The Houthi attacks have effectively displaced a significant portion of global trade by forcing cargo companies to travel around Africa, imposing higher costs and delays for the delivery of energy, food and consumer goods.
About 12 percent of world trade passes through the Red Sea, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, including 30 percent of container traffic.