Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Shipping Industry Urges Red Sea Action as Houthis Sink Second Vessel

File photo: A handout photo made available by the Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the last part of the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 03 March 2024 (issued 07 March 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
File photo: A handout photo made available by the Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the last part of the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 03 March 2024 (issued 07 March 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
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Shipping Industry Urges Red Sea Action as Houthis Sink Second Vessel

File photo: A handout photo made available by the Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the last part of the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 03 March 2024 (issued 07 March 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
File photo: A handout photo made available by the Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the last part of the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 03 March 2024 (issued 07 March 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV

Urgent action must be taken in the Red Sea to stop attacks on merchant shipping by Yemen's Houthis, leading industry groups said on Wednesday, after the sinking of a second ship.

Iran-aligned Houthi militants first launched drone and missile strikes on the important trade route in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. In more than 70 attacks, they have also seized one vessel and its crew and killed at least three seafarers.

"It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed," Reuters quoted the world's top shipping associations saying in a joint statement.

"These attacks must stop now. We call for states with influence in the region to safeguard our innocent seafarers and for the swift de-escalation of the situation in the Red Sea."

The Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier attacked by Yemen's Houthi militants in the Red Sea last week has sunk, salvagers confirmed on Wednesday.

The vessel was struck with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, according to sources.

International naval forces have been deployed to provide mainly defensive support for ships still sailing through the Red Sea, but the attacks have increased significantly.

Insurance industry sources said on Wednesday there was also mounting concern over the use of attack drone boats by the Houthis.

"They are harder to defend against and potentially more lethal as they strike the waterline," one industry source said.

"Missiles have - to date - mainly caused deck and superstructure damage (to ships)."

There have been 10 Houthi strikes so far in June compared with five in May, said Munro Anderson, head of operations at marine war risk and insurance specialist Vessel Protect, part of Pen Underwriting. "The first successful use of an unmanned surface vessel represents a new challenge for commercial shipping within an already complex environment," he added.

Insurance industry sources said that additional war risk premiums, paid when vessels sail through the Red Sea, had hovered close to 0.7% of the value of a ship in recent days from around 1% earlier this year.

They added that with a second ship sinking and the losses likely to emerge from that, rates are likely to firm up, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs to every voyage.

Ships must divert around southern Africa, which is the best way to protect seafarers, said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary with the International Transport Workers' Federation, the leading seafarer's union.

"We would also welcome proper escorts and the shielding of ships by naval forces, which would reduce the risks of ships being hit," he added.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Bangladesh Factories, Banks Reopen as Curfew Is Eased After Protests Taper Off 

Commuters are seen moving along a road in Dhaka on July 24, 2024, after authorities eased a curfew imposed to contain deadly clashes sparked by student protests over civil service employment quotas. (AFP)
Commuters are seen moving along a road in Dhaka on July 24, 2024, after authorities eased a curfew imposed to contain deadly clashes sparked by student protests over civil service employment quotas. (AFP)
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Bangladesh Factories, Banks Reopen as Curfew Is Eased After Protests Taper Off 

Commuters are seen moving along a road in Dhaka on July 24, 2024, after authorities eased a curfew imposed to contain deadly clashes sparked by student protests over civil service employment quotas. (AFP)
Commuters are seen moving along a road in Dhaka on July 24, 2024, after authorities eased a curfew imposed to contain deadly clashes sparked by student protests over civil service employment quotas. (AFP)

Rush-hour traffic returned to the streets of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Wednesday, as a curfew was eased after four days of nationwide shutdown that followed deadly protests led by university students against quotas in government jobs.

Offices reopened and broadband internet was largely restored, although social media continued to be suspended, days after the clashes between protesters and security forces killed almost 150 people.

The country has been relatively calm since Sunday, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an appeal from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government and directed that 93% of jobs should be open to candidates on merit.

Bangladesh's mainstay garment and textiles industries, which supply to major Western brands, also began reopening some factories after a pause in production during the curfew.

"All our factories are open today. Everything is going smoothly," said S.M. Mannan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The stock exchange opened too, as well as banks, after remaining shut the past two days.

Residents of Dhaka were out on the streets, some making their way to offices as public buses also began running in some places.

"It was a hassle to reach the office on time," said Shamima Akhter, who works at a private firm in the capital. "Some roads are still blocked for security reasons. Don't know when everything will get normal."

Local news websites, which had stopped updating since Friday, were back online too.

Bangladesh authorities had shut mobile internet and deployed the army on the streets during the curfew that was imposed from midnight on Saturday.

The government said curfew restrictions would be relaxed for seven hours on Wednesday and Thursday, and offices would also be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

STUDENT DEMANDS

Analysts say the student action has given fresh impetus to Hasina's critics, months after she won a fourth-straight term in power in January in a national election boycotted by the main opposition party.

"The informal federation of government critics appears deeper and wider than before the election, which presents a serious challenge to the ruling party," said Geoffrey Macdonald at the United States Institute of Peace.

Hasina, 76, is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, who led the country's movement for independence from Pakistan.

The earlier 56% job quotas included a 30% reservation for families of veterans of the 1971 independence war, which critics said favored supporters of Hasina's Awami League.

Hasina's government had scrapped the quotas in 2018, but a high court ruling reinstated them last month.

Students were furious because quotas left fewer than half of state jobs open on merit amid an unemployment crisis, particularly in the private sector, making government sector jobs with their regular wage hikes and perks especially prized.

Hasina has blamed her political opponents for the violence and her government said on Tuesday that it would heed the Supreme Court ruling.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has denied any involvement in the violence and accused Hasina of authoritarianism and a crackdown on her critics, charges denied by her government.

Protesting students have given the government a fresh 48-hour ultimatum to fulfil four other conditions of an eight-point list of demands, and said they would announce their next steps on Thursday.

"We want the government to meet our four-point demand, including restoration of internet, withdrawal of police from campuses, and opening universities (which have been closed for a week)," protest coordinator Nahid Islam said.