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Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd halt Red Sea passages

Carriers pull out after string of vessel attacks

Several containerships have come under attack in the Bab el Mandeb, a strait between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, Djibouti, and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. As a result, leading carriers are putting some voyages on hold as the situation deteriorates

LEADING container lines Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have put a halt to voyages through the Red Sea following a string of attacks on shipping by Houthi forces on Friday.

Ships owned and operated by the lines, along with another operated by Mediterranean Shipping Co have either been struck or had close calls in recent days.

“Following the near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar (IMO: 9739692) yesterday and yet another attack on a container vessel today, we have instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab el Mandeb Strait to pause their journey until further notice,” a spokesman for Maersk told Lloyd’s List.

“Ensuring the safety of our employees is of the utmost importance and our number one priority in handling this challenging situation. We continue to closely monitor the situation, retrieving all available intelligence on the security situation in the area.

“We are committed to best possibly ensuring the stability of our customers’ supply chains, and we are working closely with all our logistics teams and are taking steps to minimise impacts to customers.”

The attack on Friday was on Hapag-Lloyd’s 15,000 teu Al Jasrah (IMO: 9732321), which was hit by an unknown object, thought to be a drone. This resulted in a fire on board, although there are no reported casualties.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence’s casualty reporting service said the vessel caught fire in the Red Sea, after being hit by a projectile launched from rebel-controlled Yemen, citing US defence officials.

“The projectile hit the port side of the vessel and one container fell overboard due to the impact and the projectile also caused a fire on deck,” it said.

A spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd confirmed the attack.

“Our 15,000 teu vessel Al Jasrah, sailing in the MD2 service, has been attacked while sailing close to the coast of Yemen,” he said.

“No crew member was injured. Hapag-Lloyd will take additional measures to secure the safety of our crews.”



Hapag-Lloyd has also confirmed it will halt all further passages through the Bab el Mandeb over the weekend.

“Hapag-Lloyd is pausing all containership traffic through the Red Sea until Monday,” the spokesman told Lloyd’s List. “Then we will decide for the period thereafter.”

All vessels that were due to transit Bab el Mandeb over the weekend have been asked to drift and not transit, and schedules are being updated.

The UKMTO has also reported a further attack on another vessel further south, although details remain sketchy. EOS Risk Group reported that the incident involved the 2,500 teu MSC Palatium III (IMO: 9336165), which was northbound en-route to Jeddah. It claimed the vessel had been hit by a missile.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence’s Automatic Identification System data shows the vessel reversed direction shortly after 1000 hrs and is now steaming south towards the Gulf of Aden.

Vessel owner and operator MSC has been contacted for comment.

Another vessel, the Maersk-owned 6,000 teu Columbine Maersk (IMO: 9245768) has also diverted. The southbound vessel was just north of Al Jasrah but reversed direction following the attack. It is now heading north away from the region again.

Al Jasrah has been owned and operated by Hapag-Lloyd since it was acquired as part of its merger with United Arab Shipping Co in 2016. It has no ties with Israel and the MD2 service between the western Mediterranean and Asia does not call at Israel. Nor do the other vessels affected today have any Israel links, indicating that Houthi claims to want to only stop shipping linked to Israel might end up encompassing any shipping.

The International Chamber of Shipping this morning called for states with influence in the region to work to stop the actions of the Houthis in attacking seafarers and merchant ships, and de-escalate what is now an extremely serious threat to international trade.

“Some companies have already rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid Houthi aggression, which adds cost and delay to global trade,” the ICS said.

“Industry is extremely concerned about these attacks on shipping and is understood to be considering additional actions, which could lead to further ships diverting to this route, with further potential impacts on trade. The Red Sea is a crucial waterway, linking Europe and Asia. Currently, 12% of global trade passes through the Red Sea.”

It said the full maritime security architecture in the region should be brought to bear to end the attacks and protect seafarers and merchant shipping.

The increased activity has raised concerns about the viability of the Suez Canal routing.

“All ships transiting the Suez Canal must sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Houthi militia has made clear that any vessel is a target,” claimed Xeneta chief analyst Peter Sand.

He warned the situation could have serious consequences for global supply chains.

“I do not believe the Suez Canal will close, however, if there are further significant escalations then we cannot rule it out, even if it is just for a few days.”

He pointed to the disruptions caused by the closure of the canal following the Ever Given (IMO: 9811000) casualty in 2021.

“Supply chains were plunged into chaos and it took months to restore order,” Sand said.

“The ocean freight industry has been deeply scarred by Ever Given and is frankly terrified of any situation that threatens the closure of the Suez Canal.”

He warned that if the attacks continued, there would likely be further diversions to avoid the area.

“We are already seeing ocean freight line operators and owners choosing to reroute vessels away from the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region,” he said.

“Due to the importance of the Suez Canal to global supply chains, even a small disruption can have big consequences. The main alternative is to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which adds up to 10 days’ sailing time for services from Asia to northern Europe and the east Mediterranean.”


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