Shipping giants Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk pause Red Sea travel

The Hamburg flag flies in front of Hapag-Lloyd containers on the Hapag-Lloyd containership “Berlin Express” at Burchardkai in the Port of Hamburg.

Marcus Brandt | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

MSC, the world’s largest shipping carrier, said it is no longer traveling through the Suez Canal after its container ship, the MSC PALATIUM III, was attacked Friday while transiting the Red Sea under a subcharter to Messina Line. 

“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.”

MSC explained the new routing will impact the sailing schedules by several days for vessels booked for Suez transit. “We ask for your understanding under these serious circumstances,” the advisory continued.

This announcement follows the announcement in the pause of Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb Straight travel by shipping giants, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk, following a series of attacks on their vessels by Iranian-backed Houthi militants from Yemen.

Maersk, the world’s second-largest container shipping company, moves 14.8% of the world’s trade. It said it would divert ships away from the Red Sea. The Houthi group backs Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, and has said it is targeting vessels headed for Israel.

In an email to CNBC, a Maersk spokesman said the Danish company is deeply concerned about the highly escalated security situation in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the area are alarming and pose a significant threat to the safety and security of seafarers, the spokesman added, saying that employees’ safety is the company’s top priority. 

“Following the near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar yesterday and yet another attack on a container vessel today, we have instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait to pause their journey until further notice,” the representative said.

Maersk said it would release more details about potential next steps in the coming days.

Hapag-Lloyd, which controls about 7% of the global container ship fleet, told CNBC in an email, that it will “pause all container ship traffic through the Red Sea until Monday. Then we will decide for the period thereafter.”

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, which feed into the Indian Ocean. This waterway is used by container ships and exports of petroleum and natural gas from the Persian Gulf.

Approximately 12% of the world’s trade, which includes 30% of all global containers, move through the Suez Canal. That then feeds through the Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb. The significance of the Suez Canal was thrust into the spotlight in March 2021, when the container ship Ever Given was stuck for six days.

A boat of the…

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