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K Line and NYK finally divert vehicle carriers via Cape of Good Hope

Both car carrier operators had persisted with Suez Canal route for Europe-bound vessels from Asia since attacks on shipping from Yemen began in November

While several car carrier operators started to divert ships away from the Red Sea in December, Cosco, Grimaldi, K Line and NYK still took the Suez Canal route for Asia/Europe services. Air strikes by the UK and the US since January 11 and subsequent attacks on shipping by Houthi rebels may have finally persuaded them to give the area a wide berth

JAPAN’S NYK and K Line have begun to divert their vehicle carriers from Asia bound for the Mediterranean and northern Europe via the Cape of Good Hope.

The second- and fourth-largest operators of pure car and truck carriers respectively are among the last car carrier service providers to abandon the Red Sea route following the Houthi attacks on shipping from November.

K Line’s 5,036 car capacity Bangkok Highway (IMO: 9506710), bound from Japan and China to northern Europe via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean ports of Piraeus and Livorno, appears to have been idled in the Indian Ocean on January 12, the day after US and UK air strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

The 49,000 gt ship made a 90-degree turn southwards yesterday, January 16, towards South Africa and is sailing at its maximum speed of almost 20 knots, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

It had been due to arrive at the UK vehicle import centre at Portbury, Bristol on January 30, although its arrival there now is likely to be delayed by up to 14 days.   

"We have temporarily suspended navigation through the Red Sea for all our vessels including Car carrier and are considering alternative route such as the Cape of Good Hope," a K Line spokesperson confirmed to Lloyd's List.

Meanwhile, NYK’s 7,000 car capacity Freesia Leader (IMO: 9933987), from Japan bound to northern Europe had been booked to undertake passage via Suez but undertook a similar manoeuvre to Bangkok Highway yesterday. The 2023-built vessel is now headed southbound in the Indian Ocean. It had been scheduled to arrive at Bristol on January 28.



A second NYK-controlled vehicle carrier, the 4,318 car capacity Neptune Leader (IMO: 9402744) also appears to have been diverted from the Red Sea after it departed from the port of Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

NYK has not made an official public announcement so far about diversions of its vehicle carrier fleet. 

The Ray Shipping-owned, 5,000 car capacity Galaxy Leader (IMO: 9237307) was on long-term time charter to NYK when the vessel, which has ownership connected to Israel, was boarded by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in November in the Red Sea. The Galaxy Leader was empty at the time of the attack and was forced to sail to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The ship and its multinational crew remain under the control of Houthi rebels.



Cosco, K Line, NYK and Grimaldi had continued to use the Red Sea/Suez Canal for their vehicle carriers bound to and from northern Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia as of last week. The strikes on Yemen by US and UK naval forces since January 11 and subsequent attacks on shipping by Houthi rebels may have finally persuaded almost all operators to avoid the Red Sea.

Grimaldi, which has been approached for comment, has also not announced its intentions regarding the Suez Canal. The operator had ships transiting the Red Sea earlier this week, however no Grimaldi ships appear to be bound for Suez either southbound or northbound.

In December, the world’s largest operator of pure car and truck carriers, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, was the first carrier to announce it would reroute all its vessels set to transit the Red Sea.

Höegh Autoliners, the fifth-largest operator of vehicle carriers, confirmed soon afterwards that it had also cancelled transits via the Red Sea, following advice from the Norwegian Maritime Authority.

Third-largest operator Mitsui OSK Lines began to divert its vehicle carriers operating between Europe and Asia in early January. Although it did not confirm its plans officially, vehicle carrier operators are understood to be advising customers directly regarding vessel diversions and subsequent delays to vessel schedules.


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