The head of the European Union naval operation in the Red Sea has called for more vessels to provide close protection for ships from Houthi attacks.

Rear Admiral Vasileios Gryparis, of Greece, said he needed more than the four frigates currently working on the $8.7m Aspides mission in the southern Red Sea.

Gryparis told Bloomberg that the EU force since February has escorted 164 ships and shot down drones and missiles. US warships are also providing protection for shipping in the area, but the Houthi rebels have still managed to hit and sink commercial ships.

“We don’t have that many assets and the whole area we have to cover is enormous,” he told the agency while in Brussels to appeal for more vessels. “I am pressing all the member states to provide more assets.”

The Houthi group in Yemen has been attacking ships for more than six months with missiles, air and sea-based drones. It says the campaign is in support of Palestinians in Gaza with Israel, its allies and ships heading to its ports the main targets.

The group has repeatedly warned that it would escalate its attacks and a second ship the 82,000-dwt Tutor (built 2022) sunk this week after being targeted by Houthi strikes. A Filipino seafarer was killed, taking the total since the start of the campaign to four.

Footage suggests that tactics adopted by the Houthis included sending a booby-trapped vessel against the Tudor with two dummies on board to give the impression that it was a harmless fishing boat.

Gryparis said the risk to shipping had increased and indicated that attacks by the UK and US had been ineffective in preventing the attacks.

“We don’t believe that hitting the Houthis might solve the problem,” he told Bloomberg. “Some other countries tried similar actions some years ago and some other countries still do and we see that it is not contributing to the solution to the problem.”

He said that any extra resources would be used to expand the range of EU operations beyond a small part of the southern Red Sea near the Bab el-Mandeb strait.

“There are daily about 40 or 50 ships going up and down the strait so it needs a significant amount of ships to be able to provide this close protection,” he said.

Download the TradeWinds News app
The News app offers you more control over your TradeWinds reading experience than any other platform.