Government must act to protect UK merchant sailors in conflict areas – Carmichael

9 Jan 2024

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called for the government to work with international partners to secure the safety of merchant shipping in the wake of increased attacks on vessels in the Red Sea. Mr Carmichael highlighted the importance of safe passage to global trade, as well as the need to protect those working in the merchant navy.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael asked what recent assessment the government has made of the effectiveness of the Royal Navy in protecting merchant shipping routes in conflict zones:

“The Secretary of State is absolutely right to point the finger at the Houthis, but we should not ignore the role of Iran in this enterprise. What are he and the Government doing with our international partners to ensure that the merchant marine have the confidence to keep using the Red sea, which is critical to the smooth operating of world trade?”

Responding for the government, Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps MP said:

“We call on the Iranian-backed Houthis to immediately cease these attacks. The Houthis will bear the responsibility and, I have to say, the consequences should they ignore those warnings. The right hon. Gentleman asks what more we have been doing; I issued a statement along with 10 other countries during the break, in which we made clear that consequences will follow if they do not stop this action. To be clear, the UK will not tolerate the Houthis closing international waterways.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“In the isles we have a proud history of working in the merchant navy, which continues to this day. Local families with relatives working on vessels which pass through the Red Sea have understandably raised concerns about their safety – this is not just a matter of global economic disruption but individual lives. We must work with our international partners to rebuild confidence in maritime security and deter threats to civilian shipping.”

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