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June 16, 2024

Maersk Reroutes Ships Away From Red Sea Amid Attacks, Threatening Supply Chains

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Jan 5, 2024

Global shipping giant Maersk has begun rerouting its cargo vessels away from the Red Sea shipping route due to rebel attacks in the narrow passage, opting for the much longer trip around the southern tip of Africa instead. This move threatens to further disrupt strained supply chains and drive up costs for businesses and consumers worldwide.

Escalating Attacks Force Shipping Firms to Divert Vessels

Over the past month, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have stepped up missile and drone attacks on ships traveling through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal. At least four vessels have been hit, increasing fears over the safety of one of world’s busiest and most important cargo routes.

On January 4th, Maersk announced it would divert all container vessels away from the Red Sea, adding an estimated 7-10 days to trip lengths. The Danish firm cited “a deteriorating security situation in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and the Red Sea”, saying risks were “simply too high to justify moving cargo through the area.”

Several other firms, including CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd, quickly followed suit. Industry groups estimate over 30% of Asia-Europe traffic has now been rerouted away from Suez as operators scramble to avoid potential missile strikes.

Shipping firm Status
Maersk Diverting vessels away from Red Sea
CMA CGM Same as above
Hapag-Lloyd Continuing to use Suez Canal route

Supply Chain Chaos, Costs Set to Mount

The Red Sea diversion is the last thing strained supply chains needed right now. With Chinese New Year factory closures around the corner, shipping analysts warn we could see “sheer transportation chaos” in the weeks ahead.

Ocean carriers were already struggling with equipment shortages and congestion issues around key Asian ports. As more mega-ships now skip Suez to loop around Africa instead, these problems will only intensify. Experts caution it may take months for normal operations to resume even if the security situation stabilizes quickly.

Meanwhile, the influx of vessels vying to pass South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope risks creating traffic jams and long delays there too. Operators can likely forget about maintaining reliable schedules or transit times for the foreseeable future.

Ultimately, shippers and consumers will foot the bill for this gridlock and uncertainty through higher transportation charges. Spot freight rates have already soared over 60% in some markets due to the crisis. These costs will inevitably filter through to manufacturers, importers, retailers, and ultimately everyday shoppers in the coming months.

For India, rising shipping expenses combined with a weakening Rupee currency risk hitting exports hard. Top government officials have raised concerns, but say the impacts remain unclear as the situation continues unfolding. Other economies closely intertwined with Red Sea trade such as Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia also face massive question marks from the crisis.

No End in Sight for Attacks or Supply Chain Troubles

Most distressingly, there appears no clear resolution on the horizon for either the rebel attacks or their fallout. The Houthis show no signs of relenting, perhaps seeing the Red Sea as new leverage for pressing their interests after nearly a decade of inconclusive civil war in Yemen.

While Western powers explore diplomatic options, none have proven successful so far. Even if missile strikes paused briefly, the “risk premium” of sailing the Red Sea may remain too high for ship operators without concrete reassurances or anti-missile protections.

Analysts increasingly warn the crisis seems poised to drag on throughout 2024, further inflaming inflation and supply chain chaos globally. With China reopening from strict zero-COVID policies, more strain looms as factories restart production. It shapes up as a “worst possible time” for major transportation arteries like the Red Sea corridor to endure extended disruptions.

For now, all eyes remain fixed on the narrow passage through which 10% of world trade flows. But reverberations seem certain to impact wallets and daily lives everywhere if the attacks and rerouted ships continue plaguing the Red Sea in the months ahead.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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