EU Launches ‘Aspides’ Naval Mission to Safeguard Red Sea Shipping Amid Houthi Threats

The European Union initiated the naval mission ‘Aspides’ on February 19 to safeguard cargo ships in the Red Sea amid ongoing threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen. The mission, headquartered in Larissa, Greece, under Commodore Vasilios Griparis, aims to counteract the rebels’ drone and missile attacks causing disruptions to maritime traffic and trade in the strategic route between Asia and Europe.

While the attacks were initially linked to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, they have extended to vessels with minimal connections to Israel. In response, U.S. and British forces conducted airstrikes on Houthi targets. However, the EU mission, focusing on defense, will operate exclusively at sea and abstain from military strikes.

The mission’s mandate includes providing maritime situational awareness, escorting vessels, and protecting them from potential multi-domain attacks at sea, according to a statement from EU headquarters. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed the global impact of Houthi attacks, affecting the entire international shipping industry. She emphasized the mission’s importance in showcasing international unity against terrorist threats to sea lanes. Germany and Belgium are contributing frigates to the mission.