News 27th Mar, 2024

100 days of Red Sea crisis: more turmoil ahead?

Port Suez

Houthis threaten to expand attacks to the Indian Ocean.

Maersk deems the Red Sea region too risky.

PHOTO: Ships passing through the Suez Canal. Getty Images

It has been over 100 days 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 Houthi militia has now threatened that it will continue attacks against Israel-linked ships transiting the Indian Ocean, Iran’s state-owned broadcast channel PressTV reported, citing Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi.

Houthi militants plan to “prevent the passage of ships associated with the Israeli enemy even through the Indian Ocean and from South Africa towards the Cape of Good Hope,” PressTV quoted Abdul Malik al-Houthi as saying.

“For this important, advanced, and significant step, we have begun to implement our operations related to it through the Indian Ocean and from South Africa towards the Cape of Good Hope,” he said.

“The Houthi explicitly threatened Israeli-affiliated shipping, however, American- and British-owned vessels could likely be targeted in accordance with the current targeting profile,” maritime risk management firm Ambrey said.

“The Houthi threat extends to all of the Lloyd’s Joint War Committee’s Indian Ocean listed area,” it added.

The Joint War Committee of Lloyd's Market Association and International Underwriting Association expanded its “high-risk zone” in the Red Sea from 15° north to 18° north. It also widened its high-risk zone near Eritrea, an African country on the Red Sea coast, in preparation for missile strikes.

Red Sea diversions continue

Since the first attack on 19 November, over 60 ships have so far faced missile strikes, near misses, or threats from the Houthis, according to marine risk management firm Ambrey. The attacks had forced several shipping companies to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope instead of the shorter Suez Canal route.

CMA CGM has now resumed some transits through the Red Sea on a “case-by-case” basis.

However, some shipping majors like Maersk and Hapag Lloyd continue to avoid the Red Sea. Hapag-Lloyd vessels are still being rerouted via the Cape of Good Hope, a spokesperson told ENGINE.

Maersk also reiterated that the security risk in the Red Sea region remains “elevated” amidst the ongoing Houthi attacks in the region. It pointed out that "some other shipping lines have continued sailing through the Red Sea despite security risks or have announced their plans to resume sailing", but Maersk will continue to divert ships via the longer Cape of Good Hope route.

Other container lines including Yang Ming, Evergreen, Ocean Network Express have also rerouted their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope and have not yet announced plans to resume operations via the Suez route.

By Konica Bhatt

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