Escalating Threats in the Red Sea: Shipping Companies Take Urgent Measures
In a concerning series of events, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk container vessels have recently faced suspected Houthi attacks in the Red Sea’s Bab el-Mandeb Strait, prompting heightened security measures and a temporary halt in shipping activities. The situation reflects an alarming increase in maritime threats in the region.
Hapag-Lloyd Incident: Hapag-Lloyd confirmed that its 15,000-TEU container ship, Al Jasrah, was hit by a projectile near Yemen’s coast. Fortunately, no crew members were injured, but the company emphasized its commitment to additional safety measures. The vessel caught fire, believed to be the result of a drone strike, according to an anonymous US defense department official.
As a precautionary step, Hapag-Lloyd decided to suspend all container ship traffic through the Red Sea until Monday, with a reassessment to follow.
Maersk Faces Near-Miss: Maersk, too, has been targeted in the region. The 10,000-TEU Maersk Gibraltar narrowly avoided a missile strike while en route from Salalah, Oman, to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The crew is reported to be safe. In response, Maersk instructed its vessels approaching the Bab el-Mandab Strait to pause their journeys until further notice, expressing deep concern about the heightened security situation.
The shipping company urged diplomatic efforts to address the escalating tensions, emphasizing the need for the international community to collaborate on finding a swift resolution.
Wider Security Concerns: The security concerns extend beyond individual shipping lines. CMA CGM Group also directed its vessels in the region to stay put, citing growing safety concerns. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait has witnessed an increasing number of attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebel militia.
Initially targeting vessels with Israeli ties, recent incidents indicate a more indiscriminate approach by the Houthis. Attacks on the Ardmore Encounter tanker and the Norway-flagged tanker Strinda reflect an expanded threat profile, with the Houthis now targeting ships heading to Israel and vessels affiliated with Israel.
International Response: The United States government is reportedly in talks to form a naval coalition aimed at protecting commercial shipping in the region, a move vehemently opposed by Iranian officials. The insurance industry has responded with increased rates across the board due to the heightened risks.
Ambrey, a maritime security firm, highlighted the evolving threat landscape, advising ship hardening and protection measures. The International Union of Marine Insurance called the attacks on vessels a significant development in the ongoing conflict, emphasizing the need for a reassessment of ship security procedures.
Concerns for Seafarers and Calls for Action: Both the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) expressed deep concern over the attacks, urging an immediate cessation. The ICS deplored the Houthi actions as unacceptable acts of aggression that endanger seafarers and maritime safety. ECSA called for enhanced protective measures to ensure the well-being of seafarers and the security of vital trade routes.
As the situation continues to escalate, Dryad Global’s CEO, Corey Ranslem, predicts a continuation of boardings, drone attacks, and missile threats in the region. The shipping industry faces a complex challenge where political motives clash with commercial operations.
In response to a hijacking incident, UK Maritime Trade Operations reported a vessel, believed to be Navibulgar’s bulk carrier Ruen, heading toward Somalia after losing contact off Yemen’s Socotra Island. The ship’s security officer indicated a loss of control, raising further concerns about maritime safety.
An attack on the tanker vessel Ardmore Encounter on 13 December came shortly after the Houthis expanded their threat to all ships heading to Israel and claimed responsibility for a missile strike on J Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi’s Norway-flagged tanker Strinda in the Red Sea. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait has been the site of an increasing number of attacks against commercial shipping targets by Yemen’s Houthi rebel militia, the Iran-supplied Yemeni Armed Forces.
Conclusion: The recent wave of attacks in the Red Sea has triggered a significant maritime crisis, prompting shipping companies to implement urgent safety measures. As the international community grapples with finding a resolution, the safety of seafarers and the security of crucial trade routes remain paramount concerns. The situation underscores the need for a collaborative, diplomatic effort to address the escalating tensions and ensure the safe passage of vessels in this critical maritime corridor.