Maersk, MSC and other liner majors suspend Red Sea runs amid escalating attacks

Leading liner companies, including industry giants Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, HMM, and OOCL, have suspended trading on their Red Sea trade routes. This decision comes in response to a series of targeted attacks on merchant ships operating in the region, raising alarms within the global shipping community.

The Red Sea, a critical maritime route connecting Europe and Asia, has witnessed a surge in security threats, prompting these major players to prioritize the safety of their vessels, crews, and cargo.

Namely, the Houthi army is targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea as a form of retaliation not only against all Israeli-linked vessels but also those heading to Israel until the ‘aggression against Gaza stops’. The Houthi army, who control much of Yemen including the Red Sea coast, is trying to use the attacks as a bargaining chip, pressuring the international community to address the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

MSC said on Saturday that one of its containerships, namely MSC Palatium III, was attacked while transiting the Red Sea on December 15. The ship is under charter to Messina Lina.

“All crew are safe with no reported injuries, meanwhile the vessel suffered limited fire damage and has been taken out of service,” MSC said.

“Due to this incident and to protect the lives and safety of our seafarers, 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.”

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

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a military operation against two container ships “MSC Alanya” and “MSC PALATIUM III” They were en route to the Israeli entity and were targeted by two suitable naval missiles,” the Spokesperson of the Yemeni Armed Forces Yahya Sare’e said in a statement.

The attack comes on the back of Houthi’s attack on a ship operated by commercial shipping giant Maersk last week.

On Thursday, a Maersk cargo ship Maersk Gibraltar was targeted by a missile off the coast of Yemen, and Hapag-Lloyd’s containership Al Jasrah was attacked on Friday while sailing close to the coast of Yemen.

“Hapag-Lloyd is pausing all container ship traffic through the Red Sea until Monday. Then we will decide for the period thereafter,” Hapag-Lloyd said over the weekend.

In an updated statement issued earlier today, the German containership owner and operator said that it wouldo reroute several ships via the Cape of Good Hope.

“This will be done until the passage through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea will be safe again for vessels and their crews,” the company noted.

Maersk said that the ship was traveling from Salalah, Oman to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and that it was not hit.

“The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the Bab al-Mandab Strait are alarming and pose a significant threat to the safety & lives of seafarers. This issue cannot be addressed by the global shipping industry alone, and we urge the international society to come together to find a swift resolution to bring the situation under control,” Maersk said.

The company said that it had instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab al-Mandab strait to pause their journey until further notice.

“The CMA CGM Group is deeply concerned about the recent attacks on commercial vessels unfolding in the Red Sea Region. We have been taking over the past days increasing prevention measures to ensure the safety of our vessels and their crews navigating these waters. The situation is further deteriorating and concern of safety is increasing,” the French liner major said in an advisory.

“A such 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.”

“​Due to operational issues, OOCL will stop cargo acceptance to and from Israel with immediate effect until further notice,” Hong Kong-based container shipping company Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) said in an announcement.

The World Shipping Council joined numerous industry organizations in voicing concerns over the escalating security crisis unfolding in the Red Sea region.

“The disturbing surge of attacks on vessels poses an imminent threat to the safety and lives of the seafarers navigating these waters.

“The right of freedom of navigation stands as a fundamental right under international law, and must be safeguarded. The World Shipping Council urgently calls upon the global community to take decisive action to protect seafarers and freedom of navigation,” WSC said in a statement.

“The time for resolute international engagement is now.”

The latest surge of attacks has prompted Western warships, including those from the U.S. and the U.K., to bolster patrols in the area. They have reported having shot down Houthi missiles and drones on several occasions. The U.S. has allegedly called for the creation of an international naval coalition in the Red Sea, a move fiercely criticized by Iran.

The Yemeni Armed Forces vowed to continue to prevent the navigation of vessels heading to Israel until ‘enough food and medicine’ was allowed into the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, the Israeli cabinet announced that the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip would be reopened, allowing for the flow of much-needed humanitarian aid into the devastated enclave which is flooded following heavy rains.

“The escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip is having a catastrophic impact on children and families. Children are dying at an alarming rate – more than 5,000 have reportedly been killed and thousands more injured. Well over 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip have been displaced – half of them children. They do not have enough access to water, food, fuel and medicine. Their homes have been destroyed; their families torn apart,” UNICEF said in a statement on December 15, calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.

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