The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the International Apparel Federation (IAF) have released a letter with more than 100 signatories drawn from associations representing all corners of the globe calling for wider government cooperation to keep shipping lanes open and safe.

The signatories – representing a range of critical industries such as food and agricultural products, retail, energy, clothing, shoes, electronics, and medicine – are urging governments to join, support, or align with the mission to support safe and secure maritime commerce in the Red Sea (which accounts for 30 percent of the world’s trade) and across the globe.

Noting one such multinational security initiative – Operation Prosperity Guardian, which has drawn the participation of at least 23 participating countries to date – the letter urges the world’s governments to work together to defend maritime safety and security, which is vital for so many industries and critical for the global economy.

Terrorist attacks in the Red Sea imperil the safety and security of crew and cargo, which is now forcing carriers to divert to other routes. Shipping lanes on the other side of the world from the Red Sea are beginning to be adversely affected and that global transportation is already strained from reduced access to the drought-ridden Panama Canal. Disruptions are leading to a host of knock-on effects, including port congestion, equipment shortages, and soaring shipping rates that create inflationary impacts for consumers worldwide.

"It is imperative that governments unite behind a zero-tolerance approach to deter attacks on commercial vessels and seafarers in the Red Sea, and anywhere in the world. The prosperity of millions of people who are employed in our industries and in the global maritime industry depends on safe and secure freedom of navigation," says AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar.

"These attacks have already caused upwards of $80 billion in cargo to be diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. Traveling around the Cape of Good Hope adds at least 2-3 weeks of travel and hundreds of thousands in additional fuel and labor costs compared to traveling through the Suez Canal. This alternative route becomes even more challenging during the Southern Hemisphere winter months ... cooperation among nations is essential to signal the importance of free passage in international waters," says Matthijs Crietee, Secretary General of the International Apparel Federation.

Access the full letter with the names of all 105 signatories.