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Major box carriers pause container ship traffic through Red Sea

Major ocean carriers have decided that their ships will not transit the Suez Canal due to recent attacks in the region.

The largest container line in the world MSC has announced its vessels will not transit the Suez Canal eastbound and westbound "until the Red Sea passage is safe".

The Swiss/Italian shipping giant mentioned that on 15 December, the 2,500 TEU boxship 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," said the company.

"Already now, some services will be rerouted to go via the Cape of Good Hope," noted MSC. "This disruption will impact the sailing schedules by several days of vessels booked for Suez transit."

Danish container shipping company Maersk has also stated that all of its ships in the area bound to pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait will pause their journey until further notice.

Additionally, German ocean carrier Hapag-Lloyd will pause all container ship traffic through the Red Sea until Monday (18 December) and will decide for the period thereafter.

French shipping giant CMA CGM has also announced the suspension of all vessels bound for the Suez Canal via the Red Sea and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait due to safety and security concerns.

"We have decided to instruct all CMA CGM container ships 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," said the Marseille-based carrier in a statement.

Israeli box line ZIM has also made a similar decision.

"It’s too early to determine the impact this will have on international shipping, and is worth noting that the situation is evolving quickly. The Suez Canal is a critical artery in global logistics, and as seen in March 2021 when the container ship Ever Given ran aground, blockages can cause global backlogs of container vessels and shipping delays for everyday goods around the world," pointed out Flexport, a supply chain and logistics solution provider, in a recent analysis.

Furthermore, COSCO-owned container line OOCL announced that due to operational issues, it will stop cargo acceptance to and from Israel with immediate effect until further notice.

Antonis Karamalegkos
Managing Editor

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