Wednesday 3 January 2024

Shipping Giant Maersk Suspends Red Sea Transits ‘Until Further Notice’ After Houthi Attack

 Cargo shipping giant Maersk announced on Tuesday a pause of transits through the Red Sea “until further notice” after one of its container vessels got attacked over the weekend by what the United States identified as Iranian-backed Houthi boats.

In a statement, the Danish company noted trips through the nearby Gulf of Aden would also be suspended and said vessels would be rerouted to travel around the Cape of Good Hope in “cases where it makes most sense for our customers.”

The ship that was ambushed, the Maersk Hangzhou, was hit by an “unknown object” after it passed through the Bab al-Mandab Strait en route from Singapore to Port Suez, Egypt, Maersk said in a prior statement announcing a temporary pause until January 2.

Following the initial attack, four boats approached the Maersk Hangzhou and opened fire in an attempt to board the ship, according to the company. The Maersk Hangzhou’s security team and a helicopter deployed from a nearby navy vessel “successfully thwarted the attempt,” the company added. The crew aboard the merchant ship were reported to be safe.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Sunday that U.S. Navyhelicopters destroyed three of four Houthi small boats that were attacking the container vessel after the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and USS Gravely guided missile destroyer responded to a distress call. The helicopters returned fire in self-defense after the Houthi boats fired upon the U.S. aircraft with crew-served weapons and small arms, CENTCOM said. No damage to U.S. personnel or equipment was reported.


The Houthis have warned ships not to head toward Israel in what the group claims is a show of solidarity with the Palestinians as Israel fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Other major shipping carriers, MSC and Hapag-Lloyd, said they would pause transits through the Red Sea as Houthi militants wreak havoc.

Maersk said the Maersk Hangzhou was one of the first ships to travel through the Red Sea after “confirmation” that ships from the multi-national Operation Prosperity Guardian, meant to protect vessels in the Red Sea, had deployed in the area. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the operation in mid-December with a statement citing an “escalation” in Houthi attacks coming from Yemen in recent weeks.

In its latest statement, Maersk said an investigation into the December 30 incident is “ongoing and we will continue to pause all cargo movement through the area while we further assess the constantly evolving situation.” The company added, “We remain committed to minimising the impact on our customers’ supply chains and will continue to keep you updated on the situation.”

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