Photo: Navy IDEX 2015

Middle East Shipping Lanes Safe, US Naval Official Says

But concern remains over Bab el Mandab

Shipping corridors used by Gulf energy exporters are not at risk from political violence in Yemen or from Islamic State terrorists, a senior U.S. naval officer said this week at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Vice Admiral John Miller, Commander of U.S. Naval Central Command, told attendees at the The International Defence Exhibition (Idex) that a "robust" U.S. and international maritime presence was helping to minimize threats to oil-producing countries in the region.

Miller identified Bab el Mandab, a channel between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East; the Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea; and the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, as the trade lanes that could be affected by turmoil.

Miller said combined maritime forces based in Bahrain that jointly stage security patrols against militancy, piracy and smuggling were sufficient. These forces deploy between 60 and 70 vessels per day.

However, he expressed some concern over Yemen, saying it is a "very dynamic situation" since January's government takeover.

"Instability in Yemen is something that has the potential to lead to instability in the strait of Bab el Mandab in the Gulf of Aden in the southern part of the Red Sea, all of which is cause for concern," he said.

Photo: Photo: Navy IDEX 2015