Three of Bangladesh’s major trade bodies have joined a global initiative calling on governments to collaborate in ensuring safe passage of commercial vessels over the Red Sea and deter a repeat of last December’s attacks.
Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of Yemen but are not recognised internationally, had launched the attacks, saying it was to put pressure on Israel over its devastating war with Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, reports the AFP.
The attacks prompted major shipping lines to suspend travel across the Red Sea and adjoining Suez Canal, which basically connects Africa and Asia, and divert to a much longer route, around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.
The value of the diverted cargo is upwards of $80 billion.
That’s because some 30 percent of the world’s trade, including critical items like food and agricultural products, energy, clothing, shoes, electronics, and medicine, depend on the Red Sea route.
The diversion has added at least 2-3 weeks of travel and hundreds of thousands of US dollars in additional fuel and labour costs.
Bangladesh uses the Red Sea route to mainly export garment items to Europe and the US.
It is common for international retailers and brands to bear the carrying cost under a freight on board method.
There are very few local suppliers who pay the transportation cost under a cost and freight method.
Regardless, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and the Leathergoods And Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) have joined the global initiative.
The initiative is in the form of an open letter issued by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and International Apparel Federation (IAF) on February 8.
The letter urgently calls on countries to join, support, or align with wider cooperation to support safe and secure maritime commerce in the Red Sea and across the globe, according to an AAFA statement.
The initiative could be similar to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational security initiative with at least 23 participating countries to date, said the statement.
The letter has so far drawn 105 global trade bodies and associations, whose members depend on safe and secure ocean shipping routes, as signatories.
“We are involved in this global initiative,” said Faruque Hassan, president of the BGMEA.
BKMEA Vice-President Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said he also endorsed the initiative.
Because businessmen alone cannot bring any solution to the Red Sea crisis and it requires a combined effort of governments of countries. “We need safety and security for business and trade,” he said.
Both Hassan and Ehsan are currently board members of the IAF.
“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,” said AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar.
“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,” he said in the statement.
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, read the statement.
Even shipping lanes on the other side of the world from the Red Sea are beginning to be adversely affected. Moreover, the alternative route becomes even more challenging during the Southern Hemisphere winter months, it added.