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More shipping giants suspend passage via Red Sea after attacks

By AFP - Dec 17,2023 - Last updated at Dec 17,2023

The 'CMA CGM Palais Royal', the world's largest container's ship powered by natural gas, sails in the bay of Marseille, southern France, on Thursday (AFP photo)

PARIS — Two more major shipping firms, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM, said on Saturday they were suspending passage through a Red Sea strait vital for global trade after Yemeni rebel attacks in the area.

The announcement by Italian-Swiss giant MSC and France's CMA CGM follows a similar decision Friday by two of the world's largest shipping companies, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd.

The announcements were in response to a warning by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control much of Yemen but are not recognised internationally.

The Houthis said they were targeting vessels near the strategic Bab Al Mandeb strait to pressure Israel over its devastating war with Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of ships every year transit through the strait, which runs between Yemen, on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, and the African continent.

The tensions have added to fears that the Gaza conflict could spread.

Ships belonging to Israel or heading to its ports "will remain vulnerable to targeting until the aggression stops, the siege on Gaza is lifted, and humanitarian aid continues to flow" to Gaza, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam said on X, formerly Twitter.

Oman was sponsoring discussions “with a number of international parties” regarding operations in the Red and Arabian Seas, he added.

An American destroyer on Saturday shot down more than a dozen drones in the Red Sea launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, the US Central Command said.

The UK government said one of its destroyers had also brought down a suspected attack drone in the area.


‘Situation continues 

to deteriorate’ 


MSC, one of the world’s largest freight shipping lines, said one of its container vessels had been targeted in the Red Sea on Friday and it was halting traffic through the strait until it was safe.

No one on the MSC Palatium III was wounded but the ship suffered fire damage, the company said.

CMA CGM said it had ordered all its vessels to leave the area and stay there until further notice.

“The situation continues to deteriorate and there are increasing concerns about security,” it said.

On Friday, the International Chamber of Shipping condemned the Houthi attacks which “threaten the lives of innocent seafarers and the safety of merchant shipping”.

The incidents breached international law and states in the region should work to de-escalate the situation, it said.

Diverting Asia-bound shipping from the Red Sea to South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope would increase costs and delays, the body noted.

Consultancy S&P Global estimated that the detour would increase the distance between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Singapore by 40 per cent.


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