Alarm in the Red Sea

LUISS University, 26/03/2024

Alarm in the Red Sea: What to expect and how to ensure the security of this vital maritime artery.

Shipping is the backbone of the global supply chain. Over the past two years, maritime security has come under the spotlight of policymakers and businesses. The war in Ukraine has disrupted transits through the Black Sea, and increasing droughts are making navigation through the Panama Canal unpredictable. Today, several exogenous and endogenous factors threaten to disrupt the Red Sea trade hub, with potentially catastrophic economic losses for the global economy.

The Red Sea, which stretches from the Suez Canal through the Strait of Bab el Mandeb to the Gulf of Aden, is the main trade gateway between Europe and Asia. It accounts for a fifth of the world’s seaborne trade. It allows private companies to commerce without circumnavigating Africa, enabling key commodities such as oil and electronic components to be shipped cost-effectively and efficiently between the world’s major economies.

The Red Sea is also an important source of income and development for coastal countries in Africa and the Middle East. The economies of Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and especially Egypt, where the Suez Canal accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP, are heavily dependent on local maritime trade and the externalities it generates. Moreover, the Gulf countries, taking advantage of their strategic location, consider the Red Sea key for their economic diversification strategies.

The Red Sea is also a hotspot of fierce military competition between regional and international actors. The U.S., NATO, Russia, China, and Iran have increased their military presence there increasing great powers’ geopolitical competition in the region.

In recent months, Houthi attacks, triggered by the Israeli war in Gaza, have disrupted shipping through the Suez Canal/Gulf of Aden passage, reducing container tonnage crossing by 82%. The US- and UK-led response has so far proved inconsistent at best, and unable to prevent further attacks on international ships.

The second Luiss Mediterranean Platform roundtable will try to make sense of the future of Red Sea security. It will shed light on the maritime security’s risks and their possible consequences on both Mediterranean’s shores. It will investigate regional and international actors geopolitical and geoeconomic competition, contextualizing interests, and power dynamics with the unfolding of the events in Gaza.


• Luigi Narbone, Director, Luiss Mediterranean Platform.
• Shahin Modarres Gilani, Director of “Iran Desk” at ITSS Verona and Associate Researcher, Luiss Mediterranean Platform.


• Alessandro Politi, Director, NATO Defense College Foundation.
• Cyril Widdershoven, Founder of Verocy and Associate expert, Luiss Mediterranean Platform.
• Betül Dogan-Akkas, Assistant Professor, Ankara University.
• Cinzia Bianco, Visiting Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations and Associate Researcher, Luiss Mediterranean Platform.