(Copenhagen) The Danish shipping giant Maersk announced on Friday that it would divert its fleet through southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, where it suspended all passage following attacks by Houthi rebels which are disrupting international trade.
“All Maersk vessels scheduled to transit the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden will be diverted south around the Cape of Good Hope in the near future,” the carrier said in a statement.
“Available information confirms that the security risk (in the Red Sea, Editor’s note) remains at a considerably high level,” he said, deploring a “volatile” situation.
On Tuesday, Maersk indicated that it would not resume the passage of its fleet through a strategic strait in the Red Sea, following its suspension two days previously after the attack by Houthi rebels against one of its ships, the second in less than a month.
Since November 18, 25 commercial vessels traveling in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have been attacked.
“We are aware of the potential impact of this decision on your logistics operations, but please be assured that all decisions have been carefully considered and prioritize the safety of our ships, our sailors and your cargo.” , wrote the shipowner for the benefit of its customers.
Circumventing Africa via the Cape of Good Hope extends the journey between Asia and Europe by 10 to 20 days on average, according to Arthur Barillas, managing director of Ovrsea, a freight forwarder.
Maersk says it wants to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
“By suspending travel across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, we hope to provide our customers with greater consistency and predictability despite the delays associated with rerouting,” he said.
This detour, also carried out by other shipping companies in an unsystematic manner, has a cost: 400 dollars per 40-foot container, to which is added between 600 and 2,000 dollars per container in surcharge linked to the high season.
CMA CGM, which plans to “gradually increase transit […] through the Suez Canal,” has doubled the price of a 40-foot container between Asia and the Mediterranean (from $3,000 to $6,000).
These increases are reminiscent of the COVID-19 years, during which freight rates reached unprecedented levels due to the disruption of supply chains.
One of the benchmark indicators for measuring the freight rate (tariff) of goods transported from China, the Shanghai Contained Freight Index (SCFI), has almost doubled in a few weeks.
On Wednesday, 12 countries urged the Houthis to “immediately stop their illegal attacks” on ships in the Red Sea, threatening them with “consequences.”
The United States set up in December, with other countries, an international coalition to protect maritime traffic from Houthi attacks, in this strategic zone where 12% of world trade passes.
The Houthis, who say they are in solidarity with Palestinian Hamas in the war between it and Israel in the Gaza Strip, have warned that they will target ships sailing off the coast of Yemen with links to Israel.