News 19th Mar, 2024

Suez Canal tanker traffic remains steady in March after a spike in February

Port Suez
Richards Bay

Suez tanker traffic remains relatively unchanged in March even as Houthi strikes in the Red Sea claim first casualties.

PHOTO: A tanker passing through the Suez Canal. Getty Images

Almost four months have passed since Yemen's Houthi rebel group began attacking commercial ships in the southern Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and East Africa.

The attacks began on 19 November last year, when Houthi militants seized the Galaxy Leader vessel.

Since then, at least 14 oil & chemical tankers have faced missile strikes, near misses, or threats from the Houthis, according to marine risk management firm Ambrey. These attacks forced many tanker owners and operators to divert their ships around the Cape of Good Hope instead of the shorter Suez Canal route, but some seemed to have returned to the Suez route in February.

In an escalation of violence earlier this month, a Houthi missile struck M/V True Confidence vessel as it transited the Gulf of Aden, causing first casualties of the group's attacks. It appears that the unrelenting attacks and increased threats to seafarers have fazed some tanker operators as tanker traffic movement remained almost steady in March.

An average of 11 tankers/day passed through the Suez Canal in the first half of March. This was virtually unchanged from 12 tankers/day in the second half of February. A low of 6 tankers/day transited the Suez Canal on 4 and 6 March, and a high of 15 tankers/day transited on 9 March, according to the IMF's PortWatch data.

Alternatively, tanker transit calls on the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope have remained consistent over the past fortnight. The first half of March saw an average of 18 tankers/day passing through the Cape, little changed from 19 tankers/day in February's second half.

By Konica Bhatt

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