Attacks in Red Sea causing shipping delays in New Zealand

US and British naval forces have shot down 21 drones and missiles fired by Houthi militants in the Red Sea on Thursday.

The Houthi attacks have forced more than a dozen freight companies to re-route and some retailers in New Zealand are already grappling with shipping delays.

"A major sea route, a major ability to move goods around the world, is being cut off by terrorists and thugs, and we therefore must act," said UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps.

The British ships are part of a naval coalition formed by the United States.

"Iran-backed Houthis launched a complex attack of drones, anti-ship cruise missiles, and anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea," US National Security Council's John Kirby said.

The Houthis in Yemen have been attacking freight ships in protest against Israel's war in Gaza.

"If these attacks continue, as they did yesterday, there will be consequences," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned.

New Zealand has joined the White House in condemning the Houthis.

However, the attacks are causing shipping delays as nearly 15 percent of global shipping trade passes through the Red Sea. 

The attacks have forced more than a dozen freight companies to take the longer route around the southern tip of Africa, adding about two weeks to travel times. 

Butlers Chocolates in Wellington imports products from a factory in Dublin, Ireland and is facing a month-long delay for Easter eggs.

"Easter eggs, which we would normally expect to have in the middle of February, now probably won't be here until the middle of March. They left the factory at the start of December, and they've been sitting in Europe while the shipping companies work out how to get them to New Zealand," Butlers Chocolates NZ managing director Peter Kelly said.

Kelly is also preparing to pay a higher price to get the product here.

"We've had a notification from our shipping company that they're going to pass on a fuel surcharge for the longer time," Kelly said.

"What we're going to see is potentially some short gaps in some products and potential impacts in terms of retailers having increased costs for freight," Retail NZ CEO Carolyn Young said.

It's already a tough time for retailers with consumers spending less, however, the good news is that, with inflation expected to ease this year, ASB economists estimate that weekly household cost increases will be about $50 dollars lower compared to last year. 

But they also warn 2024 will be unpredictable as half of the globe goes to the polls at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions.

Tensions like the attacks in the Red Sea that are threatening the stability of global shipping trade and chocolate reaching our shores in time for Easter.