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Red Sea incidents could see more traffic round the Cape
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Red Sea incidents could see more traffic round the Cape

Escalating situation diverts ships

The deteriorating situation currently unfolding in the Red Sea could see more ship traffic opting to forgo the Suez Canal and diverting around Africa to ensure the safety of their vessels and crew.

After an attack on one of their container vessels last week, MSC announced that some ships would be diverted around the Cape of Good Hope.

On 15 December 2023 the container ship MSC PALATIUM III was attacked at approximately 09.37 UTC while transiting the Red Sea under sub charter to Messina Line. All crew are safe with no reported injuries, meanwhile the vessel suffered limited fire damage and has been taken out of service.

The CMA CGM Group has also expressed their concern about the escalating situation and are increasing measures to ensure the safety of their vessels and crew in these waters.

“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,” they said in an issued statement.

The situation has become progressively worse since October this year and a statement submitted by the State of Israel to the International Maritime Organisation at the end of November highlights some of the attacks carried out by the Houthis in Yemen.

 “These actions are clear violations of International Maritime Law and the IMO Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),” the circular contends as it recounts incidents involving the Galaxy Leader, the CMA GMC Symi, as well as the MV Central Park which all occurred within one week.

The outgoing IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim has condemned the attacks, but urgent intervention will be required to mitigate the inherent impact to commercial shipping.

The International Chamber of Shipping has called on all States with an influence in the region to use their powers to maintain freedom of navigation and “dissuade the antagonists from persisting in this aggressive and illegal action that disrupts trade, and victimises innocent seafarers”.

Accepted ship hardening recommendations may seem inadequate considering that Houthi forces hijacked a car carrier by inserting a team of armed men by helicopter last month before diverting the vessel to Hodeida – a Houthi controlled area of the Yemeni coastline.

In the meantime, sources within the South African maritime sectors have confirmed that they are beginning to see effect on ships traffic. This could mean an upturn in the bunker industry as well as other services such as crew changes and ship supply.

UPDATE 18 December 2023: 

After an attack on one of their vessels in the Red Sea on Friday, Hapag-Lloyd has issued a statement that they will no longer use the Suez Canal: "We have had to take the decision to avoid the Suez Canal and the Red Sea with immediate effect, and instead route our ships around the Cape of Good Hope. We will reassess the situation in the Red Sea regularly and reinstate our services through the Suez Canal when the situation in the area is deemed safe and secure for our ships and crews and your cargo onboard."

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