Red Sea Crisis: Latest News and Advice for Shippers

January 3, 2024
Sasha Khan
Marketing Manager
8 Minutes

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Trade flow through the Red Sea has been disrupted since 14th of December 2023, after a series of attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial vessels near the Yemeni coast. In response, A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world's second-largest container shipping line, declared the suspension of its ships' transits through the Red Sea with most other major container shipping lines following suit.

Most of the east-west bound container traffic took the alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, adding approximately 3000 nautical miles and roughly 10 days to the journey between China and North Europe, and up to 15 days on some Mediterranean routes. Over 500 vessels, totalling around seven million TEU, have diverted, and this number continues to rise.

Tensions have since escalated after 12th of January 2024, leading to targeted air strikes by the US and UK against Houthi rebel sites in Yemen. The strikes are claimed to be in self-defence of UK and US warships in the region and in response, the Houthis’ deputy foreign minister has warned of a "heavy price" for the aggression.

On 15th of January 2024, American officials reported a Houthi missile striking a US-owned ship off the Yemen coast, marking over 25 attacks on vessels in the region.  

Key Events Timeline:  

15th March 2024

Reports from CENTCOM and UKMTO indicate two ships have been targeted by ballistic anti-ship missiles in the region, fortunately without any casualties noted so far.

The US and Royal Navy have been active this week, striking against anti-ship missile launchers and drone facilities in Yemen. This has provoked the Houthi leaders to vow an escalation in their attacks.

Behind the scenes, there are ongoing diplomatic talks between the US and Iran, aiming to resolve the crisis by halting arms supplies to the rebels.

As for the shipping industry, it's business as usual. According to statements from Maersk and MSC, this situation is expected to continue until at least 2025. CMA still haven’t walked back their case-by-base position.

6th March 2024

Three killed in first fatal Houthi attack in Red Sea. A Houthi missile attack on a Red Sea cargo ship resulted in the deaths of three seafarers, marking the first fatalities since the group began targeting shipping routes. The Greek-owned Barbados-flagged ship, True Confidence, was set ablaze around 50 nautical miles off Yemen's port of Aden, with the Houthis claiming responsibility. The confirmed fatalities may escalate pressure for stronger military action.

3rd March 2024

The Rubymar vessel that was attacked mid-February, laden with 21,000 metric tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser, finally sank on Saturday, as reported by US Central Command (Centcom).

The aftermath of this incident poses severe risks to the environment, with potential leakage of fuel and chemical pollutants that could adversely impact marine life, including coral reefs. Prior to sinking, the Rubymar had already released a fuel slick, and now, submerged underwater, it introduces a new set of environmental threats.

27th February 2024

The UK-registered Rubymar cargo vessel appears to be drifting north as new video shows it barely afloat after the attack. The vessel is carrying 22,000 tonnes of fertiliser that is believed to be volatile and the Rubymar's owner says there is a small fuel leakage which they are attempting to fix before trying to tow it to a nearby port.

20th February 2024

Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sare’e posts on social media site X that the Houthis launched an operation against MSC Silver with naval missiles. MSC lists MSC Silver II on its site, with the ship leaving Berbera, Somaliland, on Feb. 20.

MSC is a Swiss company, but it often works with ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., an Israeli shipping service, and MSC ships stop at Israeli ports, Reuters reports. The Houthis claim Silver II is an Israeli ship.

18th February 2024

Houthis launch two anti-ship ballistic missiles at MV Rubymar, a British-owned bulk carrier sailing under a Belize flag. One of the missiles hits Rubymar, damaging the ship. Another merchant ship responding to Rubymar‘s call for assistance takes the crew to a nearby port, USNI News reports.

Rubymar, which carries fertlizer, takes on water from the damage.

6th February 2024

Houthis fire six anti-ship ballistic missiles, likely targeting Greek-owned bulk carrier Star Nasia, sailing under a Marshall Islands flag, and MV Morning Tide, a British-owned Barbados-flag cargo ship. One of the missiles hits Star Nasia, causing minimal damage and no crew injuries. USS Laboon (DDG-58) shoots down another missile. The other four land in the water.

24th January 2024

A week after US president Joe Biden admitted airstrikes were not preventing Houthi attacks on shipping, another missile attack last night forced two Maersk vessels to abandon their naval convoy and flee the Red Sea.

US-flagged Maersk Detroit (pictured above) and Maersk Chesapeake were under escort by US naval vessel USS Gravely and were carrying military supplies when Houthi militants attacked them with a barrage of missiles.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) saw vessel traffic fall 30%, and revenue by 40%, between 1 and 11 January, according to Alphaliner data.

15 January 2024

A US-owned cargo ship is hit by a missile, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak justifies air strikes in parliament.  

"Since the 19th November the Houthi's have launched over 25 attacks on commercial shipping and on the 9th January, they launched a direct attack on UK and American warships... it was the biggest attack on the Royal Navy for decades, and so we acted. We did so in self defence."
Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister
12 January 2024

US and UK, supported by allies, conduct air strikes on Houthi rebel sites in Yemen. The strikes are claimed to be in self-defence of UK and US warships in the region.

9 January 2024

HMS Diamond and US warships repel a large Houthi rebel drone attack, hinting at potential military action.  

"The UK, alongside allies, have previously made clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable... we will take the action necessary to protect innocent lives and the global economy."
Grant Shapps, UK Defence Secretary
31 December 2023

Maersk revert on plans to transit through the Red Sea after an attempted attack. The attack was blocked by the US Navy, Operation Prosperity and the ship’s own security team.

24 December 2023

Danish shipping giant Maersk has said it is preparing to resume shipping operations through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

19 December 2023

Other major shipping lines, including MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, COSCO, and HMM have suspended movements through the Red Sea and diverted around the Cape of Good Hope.

18 December 2023

U.S. Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, announced the formation of an international maritime security force named Operation Prosperity. Their goal is countering threats by Houthi forces against international maritime commerce in the region.

15 December 2023

A.P. Moller-Maersk announces the suspension of Red Sea transits, leading to a domino effect among major shipping lines.  

14 December 2023

The Maersk Gibraltar survives a missile attack, prompting Maersk to suspend Red Sea transits.  

3 December 2023

OOCL box ship Number 9 is hit by a rocket near the Yemen coast.

19 November 2023

Houthi rebels seize the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, claiming it as Israeli-owned.  

14 November 2023

Houthi rebel leader announces the search for Israeli vessels in the Red Sea.

With approximately 12% of worldwide trade passing through the Red Sea, including 30% of global container traffic, billions of dollars' worth of traded goods and supplies navigate through this crucial pathway. Avoiding this route adds significant costs and time for shippers, with an estimated 1.5-2 million TEU taken out of the market due to longer transit times. The situation also affects shipping schedules, causing capacity crunches and port bottlenecks.  

Rates, according to market analyst Xeneta, have surged as much as 200% compared to October 2023 on badly impacted trade lanes.

Despite the challenges, the broader shipping context indicates that the industry was grappling with excess capacity in the second half of 2023. Rates had hit bottom just 12 weeks before, and with substantial new tonnage entering the market in 2024, there is ample space. However, the current issue lies in disrupted schedules, impending Chinese New Year pressure, and containers being in the wrong places. As carriers introduce more capacity onto east-west trade lanes, higher rates on other routes with limited space are expected.

We understand that these developments may have an impact on your planning, but we want to reassure you that our dedicated team is here to support you through these challenges.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide you with updates as needed. If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact our team.

Thank you for your continued trust in our services, and we look forward to assisting you in navigating these unique circumstances.

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