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Shipping Giants Resume Red Sea Operations, But Houthi Risk Remains

December 27, 2023
Image Credit: Vyacheslav Argenberg/Flickr

Global shipping firms are gradually resuming operations in the Red Sea, following a brief suspension of transport caused by recurring attacks from Yemen’s Houthi militant group.

French shipping giant CMA CGM is the latest firm to restart its Red Sea operations, it announced in a press release on 26 December.

“We are currently devising plans for the gradual increase in the number of vessels transiting through the Suez Canal,” the statement said.

This comes a few days after Danish shipping firm AP Moller-Maersk announced plans to resume operations, citing a US-led naval coalition deployed to ensure the safety passage of vessels across the sea.

Meanwhile, German maritime company Hapag-Lloyd is expected to announce their forthcoming plans by today, 27 December, as indicated by a company source interviewed by Reuters.


Major shipping firms had halted Red Sea routes last week when Houthi troops began targeting vessels commercially linked with Israel, causing a global trade disruption through the Suez Canal.

Despite the United States’ assurances on 19 December to safeguard global sea trade, the threat of Houthi attacks on vessels persists, evidenced most recently by a targeted attack on 26 December.

On 26 December, Egypt announced a cooperation with Jordan to provide maritime companies an alternate route in case operations are halted once more.

The alternative route – known as the Arab Line – would enable ships to pass through Jordan’s Aqaba region, and Egypt’s ports of Nuweiba, Alexandria, Port Said, and Damietta.

Egypt and Jordan are exploring security measures to protect the safe passage of ships through their sea territories, as per a press statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 26 December.


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 travelling between Southeast Asia and Europe must pass through Yemen’s Bab Al-Mandab strait, now a conflict zone due to the recent Houthi attacks on vessels.

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

The Houthi’s maritime ambushes, which began on 19 November, threaten an essential international trade route – raising concerns of a potential escalation involving Western armies (like the US-led naval coalition) to ensure the peaceful transportation of cargo.

The Suez Canal is a vital economic artery, representing about 12 percent of global trade and contributing approximately 10 percent to Egypt’s GDP.

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