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Asia-Europe boxship freight rates more than double after Houthi attacks

Shanghai Containerised Freight Index hits highest rate in 14 months as container lines divert Red Sea transits after commercial shipping targeted with drones and missiles

Container lines most affected by geopolitical unrest in Red Sea, with surcharges as high as $2,000 per teu announced to compensate for the cost of transiting around Cape of Good Hope

CONTAINER freight rates have more than doubled in two weeks on routes from Asia to northern Europe and the Mediterranean after Houthi attacks on commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea triggered costly and time-consuming diversions around the Cape of Good Hope.

Rates for the Asia-to-Mediterranean route spiked by 123%, while Asia-Europe rates were 163% higher than mid-December, with further rises likely if more surcharges are added by container lines during January.

“The container shipping market remains in a state of significant disruption as operators shift transits away from the Red Sea,” said equity research analyst Omar Nokta from US investment bank Jefferies in a December 29 report.

Shipping rates including sea freight and surcharges from the Chinese port of Shanghai to Europe posted a week-on-week gain of 80% to reach $2,694 per teu for the seven-day period ending December 29, according to the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index. The rate was $1,029 per teu on December 15, just before Houthi military forces intensified attacks in the Red Sea.

Rates from Shanghai to the Mediterranean rose by 70% to $3,491 per teu over a seven-day period ending December 29, and were $1,569 per teu on December 15, according to the SCFI.

The overall index climbed 40% in the past week to 1,759 points to reach its highest since October 2022, as the knock on impact of the situation in the Red Sea continues to drive up rates in other markets.



Houthi military have used drones, missiles and small boats to attack or intercept more than a dozen ships over the past three weeks, disrupting a crucial trade artery that connects Asia and the Middle East with Europe and the Mediterranean.

The attacks, said by the US government to be organised with the support of Iran, led to the swift deployment of a US-organised international military mission, Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Although Houthi military figures have stated only vessels connected with Israel or calling at Israel would be targeted, many of the vessels attacked have not been linked.

Boxships with high-value cargo have been the most affected with major lines diverting around the Cape of Good Hope, slashing Suez Canal transits from the sector to less than a dozen a day.

More than 280 boxships have reportedly diverted over the past four weeks to avoid the Red Sea, adding thousands of miles and as much as 15 days to voyages, soaking up additional capacity for the boxship fleet.

MSC, the world’s largest container line, said it has implemented Contingency Adjustment Charges of between $1,500 and $2,000 per teu to accommodate.

Of the 27 containerships of 3,000 teu and above tracked by Lloyd’s List Intelligence in the Suez and Red Sea on January 2, a total of 10 were owned or operated by Maersk Line.

Seven of these Maersk ships paused sailing for 48 hours after Houthis attacked the ultra-large containership Maersk Hangzhou (IMO: 9784300) on December 31.

The US military destroyed at least two Houthi boats that approached Maersk Hangzhou, killing those on board.

Two US-flagged Maersk vessels, Maersk Kinloss (IMO: 9333022) and Maersk Detroit (IMO: 9333034) have now transited the Suez Canal after successfully sailing through the conflict area with US military support earlier, followed by Maersk Hangzhou.

China-owned vessels sailed through the high-risk area of Bab el Mandeb on January 1 within 24 hours of the attack.

Cosco Shipping’s Shipping Kilimanjaro (IMO: 9757852)made its northbound transit to the Suez Canal less than 24 hours ago, while another China-owned boxship, Newnew Star (IMO: 9353228) was sailing southbound for Bab el Mandeb on Monday afternoon and signalling Shanghai as its next destination.


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