Ongoing disruption in the Red Sea threatens to destabilise Italy’s economy and marginalise ports in southern Europe, Italy’s defence minister said.
Attacks since mid-November on commercial vessels by Iran-aligned Houthi militants, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have disrupted international shipping, forcing some companies to suspend transit through the Red Sea and instead take a much longer, costlier journey around South Africa.
“From a geopolitical perspective, the continuing of this situation could lead to the marginalisation of ports on the Mediterranean Sea,” Italian defence minister Guido Crosetto told lawmakers from his Parliament’s defence committees on February 1.
“Not only does it threaten the security of navigation but also [Italy’s] economic stability”.
The minister said commercial traffic through the Suez Canal, which he estimated to represent some 40 per cent of Italy’s total maritime trade, had dropped by 38 per cent by the last week of 2023.
Navigation times increased by 10-12 days and costs increased almost five-fold over the same period, he added.
Crosetto said that, within the framework of the European operation in the area named Aspides, Italy was “considering” sending aircraft with surveillance and data collection tasks, in addition to the military vessel it will supply for 12 months.