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More ships start to divert in wake of US and UK airstrikes

Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel-tracking data suggests that 23 tankers and bulk carriers are diverting, while one major Chinese VLCC operator has confirmed that it will not be sending tankers into the Red Sea

A total of 23 ships have now reversed course or stopped in the wake of US and UK air strikes on Houthi targets overnight. Industry groups are advising ships to exit the area, warning that the threat is likely to last for several days, however at least 90 vessels are currently heading through the danger zone

MORE ships have started to divert away from the Red Sea in the wake of US and UK air strikes against Houthi rebel targets in Yemen.

While the vast majority of major container lines had already diverted around the Cape of Good Hope, Red Sea traffic overall has only dropped by around 28% in response to Houthi attacks, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel-tracking, with only limited diversions from tankers and dry bulk carriers.

That risk calculation appears to have shifted overnight for several operators.

Lloyd’s List has tracked 23 vessels that have either stopped or reversed course in the north of the Red Sea and in the southern approach to the Bab el Mandeb shipping strait in the hours since the strikes were launched late on Thursday. Several other ships have reduced speed and one vessel disabled its AIS yesterday on its approach to the Bab el Mandeb.

However, at least 90 ships* are still heading towards or passing the area of the strikes despite warnings to stay away. According to Lloyd's List Intelligence vessel tracking there are currently 22 ships yet to clear Yemen heading northbound in the Red Sea. There are 67 yet to clear Yemen heading southbound.

An additional 38 ships are heading towards the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden. 



The Combined Maritime Forces has advised merchant ships to temporarily avoid the Bab el Mandeb shipping strait, according to an industry notice circulated by tanker owners group Intertanko.

The advisory warned all ships to “stay well away” from the Bab el Mendab Strait and stated that the threat period for shipping is expected to last for several days.

"The situation is dynamic and ships should consider holding outside of the area while a period of taking stock of the situation is undertaken until daylight on [Saturday] January 13", the advisory added.


Overnight the Singapore ship registry similarly advised all ships in its fleet to “leave or avoid the area given the elevated risk levels and possibility of collateral damage”.

Danish owner Torm is also halting all transits through the southern Red Sea in the wake of air strikes on Yemen. A company representetive said that there was no firm time frame for the diversions and the situation was being closely monitored. 

One Chinese owner with several VLCCs in its fleet said they have started to divert their ships on charter to a major oil trader to West Africa to avoid the escalating risks in the Middle East.
Security intelligence firm Dryad Global has also issued an advisory to clients following NATO action to "refrain from entering or operating in the Red Sea near Yemen and the Gulf of Aden for a minimum of 72 hours".

It continued that the "precautionary measure is crucial for ensuring the safety of personnel and assets until the situation stabilises and a clearer assessment is available".



Panama-flagged tanker Toya (IMO: 9848223), owned by Japanese owners NYK Line was steaming towards the Red Sea having departed UAE on January 8, but yesterday evening doubled back on its course and signalled that it was awaiting orders.

Similarly Liberia-flagged product tanker Diyyinah-I (IMO: 9487251) performed a U-turn just after it entered Yemen’s coastline heading towards the Red Sea on its way to Rotterdam. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company-owned tanker is now heading around the Cape of Good Hope.



In the Red Sea, Marshall Island-flagged Navig8 Pride LHJ (IMO: 9947366) reversed course on its southbound voyage having left Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu port on January 10. The Navig8-owned tanker is currently anchored off the northern coast of Eritrea.

Greek-owned bulk carrier Flag Thenia (IMO: 9605487) displayed similar tactics having performed a U-turn off the Eritrean coast just after the attacks were launched. The Veniamis group-owned bulker is also now anchored awaiting instructions, but signalling that it has armed guards on board.

Several other vessels have also come to a stop prior to entering the area with examples such as chemical carrier NCC Qassim (IMO: 9306811) and crude oil anker Bay Trezor (IMO: 9439541).


Additional reporting by Bridget Diakun and Linton Nightingale

* includes only bulkers, tankers, containerships, lpg/lng units at 10,000 dwt+ 

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