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Major Maritime Companies Avoid Egypt’s Suez Canal as Houthi Attacks Increase

December 17, 2023
Image Credit: Vyacheslav Argenberg/Flickr

Four of the world’s largest maritime shipping firms are halting operations through the Red Sea and Egypt’s Suez Canal due to repeated attacks by Houthi groups in Yemen.

Mediterranean Shipping (MSC) was the latest addition to the list, following AP Moller-Maersk, CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd. MSC announced the decision on 16 December after Houthi militants attacked one of its container ships.

Ships will be rerouted to South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to avoid the risk of passing through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait en route to the Suez Canal – threatening Egypt’s already-struggling economy.

The canal is a significant economic artery for global trade. As the shortest sea route between Southeast Asia and Europe, the Suez Canal accounts for around 12 percent of global trade.

It is also one of Egypt’s most important economic lifelines, accounting for approximately 10 percent of its GDP.

HOW DO THE RECENT HOUTHI ATTACKS AFFECT THE SUEZ CANAL?

The Iran-backed militant group dominates a large portion of Yemen, including the country’s Bab Al-Mandab strait – which acts as the entrance to the Red Sea opposite the Suez Canal.

Shipping vessels arriving from or departing to Southeast Asia must pass through Yemen’s Bab Al-Mandab strait, which is now a conflict zone due to Houthi threats to attack any vessels that are tied to or interact with Israel in light of the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

Naturally, any ship planning to pass through the Suez Canal is expected to pass by Yemen as well.

The Houthi’s maritime ambushes, which began on 19 November, threaten an essential international trade route – raising alarms over a potential escalation that could draw Western armies into a conflict to ensure the peaceful transportation of cargo.

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