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Updated: BP and Yang Ming suspend Red Sea shipping as supply diversions increase

More shipping companies pull out after several attacks on commercial vessels, some of which may have been misidentified targets

Oil major BP has joined container lines in suspending shipping through the Red Sea after a series of Houthi attacks on ships. Far East-Mediterranean box freight rates jumped 20% at the weekend

BP will pause all tanker transits through the Red Sea, joining container carriers shunning the region after a spate of Houthi attacks on ships.

“In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” the oil major said. 

BP said it would review the pause, subject to changing circumstances. 

Oil supplies may be disrupted if more tanker operators follow container lines in avoiding the Red Sea for crew safety. Brent oil futures rose on the news, according to reports.

Xeneta chief analyst Peter Sand said it was no longer only container shipping affected. He said Far East-Mediterranean container freight rates jumped 20% at the weekend as more carriers suspended Red Sea transits.

Sand said 1m teu of extra containership capacity would be needed if all the vessels on the Far East Asia-North Europe trade rerouted through the Cape of Good Hope.

On Monday, Yang Ming said in a note to customers that ships “currently or potentially sailing” through the high-risk area in the next two weeks would divert around the Cape of Good Hope or wait in a safe place. 

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the high-risk region and will make real-time, adaptive adjustments to our vessels and routes in response to changes in the situation, ensuring the safety of the transportation,” the Taiwanese carrier said. 

On Monday, Evergreen suspended its import and export service to Israel until further notice, citing safety risks. Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line did the same at the weekend. 

“We ask for your understanding under these serious circumstances,” the company said in a statement

Bloomberg reported that Europe’s headline natural gas price rose 7.9% on BP’s suspension, and that Asian shipping stocks rose ahead of expected increases in freight rates.

Container shipping consortia Ocean Alliance and The Alliance have issued a “pending” notice for the Chinese market regarding Red Sea routes, a Chinese freight forwarder told Lloyd’s List.

All bookings from China to the Red Sea are currently on hold this week until further notice, the forwarder said.

The Ocean Alliance comprises CMA CGM, China Cosco Shipping CorpEvergreen Marine Corp, and OOCL, and The Alliance consists of Hapag-Lloyd, Yang MingOcean Network Express, and HMM.

At the weekend, Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s biggest container line, followed Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd in suspending voyages through the Red Sea at the weekend after a spate of Houthi attacks.

MSC took the decision to reroute vessels following the attack on containership MSC Palatium III (IMO: 9336165) on December 15 while transiting the Red Sea.

“Until the Red Sea passage is safe, MSC ships will not transit the Suez Canal eastbound and westbound. Already now, some services will be rerouted to go via the Cape of Good Hope instead,” MSC said in a statement on Saturday.

“This disruption will impact the sailing schedules by several days of vessels booked for Suez transit,” according to MSC.

CMA CGM said: “We have decided to instruct all CMA CGM containerships in the area that are scheduled to pass through the Red Sea to reach safe areas and pause their journey in safe waters with immediate effect until further notice.”

It added: “The situation is further deteriorating and concern of safety is increasing.”

Despite some Chinese media reports saying that Cosco has orally notified forwarders to suspend bookings for Red Sea routes, the state-owned shipping company has denied the suspension of the service. 

The warship USS Carney shot down 14 Houthi drones off Yemen early on Saturday, US Central Command said.

Reports at the weekend said the US was expected to announce an expanded maritime task force to be called Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect ships from attack.

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