Sri Lanka navy ready to despatch ship to Red Sea to protect merchant vessels from Houthi attacks

Announcement comes following last week's orders by president Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had declared the cost as Rs 250 million every fortnight

Representative image (photo: National Herald archives)
Representative image (photo: National Herald archives)
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PTI

The Sri Lanka Navy on Monday said it is ready to send a naval ship to the Red Sea to combat the threat to merchant vessel lines by Houthi rebels, joining countries such as India in protecting the key waterway for global trade.

The announcement comes following last week's orders of president Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had declared the cost as Rs 250 million every fortnight.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched more than 20 attacks on merchant ships in recent weeks, claiming to take revenge against Israel for its military campaign against Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza. These attacks have sharply raised goods' transportation costs between Asia and Europe.

Newswire Lanka quoted Navy spokesman captain Gayan Wickramasuriya as saying that but the exact date of deployment is yet to be confirmed.

The vessels would be covering the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and connected sea lanes.

Captain Wickramasuriya went on to say that initially one ship would be deployed as part of Operation Prosperity Guardians, the naval operation underway at the Red Sea, and adjoining trade routes. "Discussions will be held and based on the warship's capability it will be deployed to any one of the sea lanes requiring protection from the Houthi rebels," the Newswire Lanka quoted him as saying.

He also stated that the deployment of more ships or swapping of ships will take place based on the current requirements and economic situation of Sri Lanka, and a discussion on the matter.

Wickremesinghe, also the defence minister, has come under criticism for the decision at a time when the island was going through its economic crisis.

Presidential sources, however, said the cost of deploying the vessel would be much less compared to the losses incurred by the Colombo port if the vessel traffic is hampered due to Houthi attacks.

The Houthi attacks centred on the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb southern chokepoint have disrupted shipping in a waterway that carries about 12 per cent of global trade.

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