Global oil prices jumped on Monday after the energy giant BP said it had stopped sending tankers through the Red Sea, a vital shipping lane which has become an increasingly dangerous route because of drone and missile attacks targeting merchant ships launched by the Houthi armed group in Yemen.
The announcement by BP raised fears of further disruption to shipments through the Suez Canal, a major conduit for both crude and refined oil products. In response to the growing concerns of disruption, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III announced on Monday night that at least nine other nations had agreed to join the United States in a joint security operation in the Red Sea, where some of those countries’ navies have already foiled drone attacks by the Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen.
The recent escalation of attacks “threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” Mr. Austin said in a statement. The nations joining the operation include Britain, France, Canada, Italy, Norway and Spain, he said. The Houthis have been staging assaults against ships in the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel. They have threatened all vessels owned and operated by Israel, as well as any ship heading for Israeli ports. Both the Houthis and Hamas, which controls Gaza, are backed by Iran.