Aerial view in 2014 of the Houston Ship Channel and surrounding energy facilities in Houston, Texas. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

In early April, there was a notable decrease in Houthi rebel attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. This reduction may be attributed to recent strikes by U.S. and British forces targeting Houthi military assets, as well as the ongoing presence of ships participating in the EUNAVFOR Aspides and Guardian of Prosperity missions.

According to a U.S. CENTCOM official, the decline in attacks coincided with reports that the Houthis were facing shortages of missiles and drones. However, this lull in hostilities is viewed as potentially temporary. General Alexus Grynkewich suggested that Iran is likely replenishing Houthi supplies, predicting a resurgence in attacks.

Recent developments indicate a shift in Houthi tactics aimed at circumventing defensive measures under Operations Aspides and Guardian of Prosperity. Navy Captain Marvin Scott noted an evolution towards coordinated, multi-domain attacks using sophisticated capabilities.

Moreover, there has been an uptick in the use of “kamikaze” drones like the “Toofan 1,” which caused significant damage to vessels such as the Greek bulk carrier Tutor and the Ukrainian bulk carrier M/V Verbena. The latter required rescue operations involving international naval assistance.

Rear Admiral Vasileios Gryparis, leading Operation Aspides, emphasized the urgent need for increased naval presence to counter ongoing threats. Currently, the operation involves four European ships, with additional support from the Dutch logistics ship Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman in Operation Guardian of Prosperity.

Admiral Gryparis stressed that Operation Aspides is strictly defensive, focusing on maritime security without targeting Houthi military sites in Yemen, unlike other international operations. He underscored the ineffectiveness of military strikes against the Houthis as a solution to the region’s challenges.

Operation Aspides, part of the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy, aims to enhance maritime security in the Red Sea by combating piracy, human trafficking, and other illicit activities. It plays a crucial role in safeguarding global maritime traffic through strategic maritime choke points, ensuring stability and economic security in the region.