Maersk continues to schedule Red Sea, Suez Canal journeys despite Houthi attack

Maersk continues to schedule Red Sea, Suez Canal journeys despite Houthi attack
The scheduling of shipping through the Red Sea comes as the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian continues to take action against Houthi attacks
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Mearsk vessel Maersk Hanghzou was the focus of Houthi attacks on 30 and 31 December, in incidents that lead to clashes between the US and Houthis in the Red Sea [Photo by JoanValls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Denmark's Maersk still plans to sail more than 30 container vessels through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal in the time ahead despite a weekend attack on one of its ships in the area, a company schedule released late on Monday showed.

But Maersk also put on hold plans for some vessels to use the Red Sea route amid continued risk of attacks by Yemen's Houthis, saying it would announce the itinerary for each ship at a later time.

Maersk on Sunday paused all Red Sea sailings for 48 hours following attempts by the Iranian-backed Houthis to board its Maersk Hangzhou vessel, although US military helicopters ultimately repelled the attack and killed 10 militants.

The Houthi group, which controls parts of Yemen after years of war, in November started attacking international ships traversing the Red Sea, saying it was a response to Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip.

Major shipping groups, including container giants Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd had last month stopped using Red Sea routes and the Suez Canal, rerouting instead to a longer journey around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope.

But Maersk on 24 December said it was preparing a return to the Red Sea, citing the deployment of a US-led military operation, titled Operation Prosperity Guardian, to protect vessels.

The company has said that its top priority is the safety of crew, vessels and cargo, and that plans are updated "on a vessel-by-vessel basis", with some set to travel via Suez and others taking the longer route around Africa.

A detailed comparison of Maersk's latest itinerary with one released last week showed that the company has put on hold plans for at least 17 vessels to travel through the Red Sea. New plans would be announced at a later time, the company said.

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The company did not say whether this meant that the vessels would be rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope.

Maersk did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its schedule.

Rival Hapag-Lloyd on Friday said it had decided to continue diverting its vessels away from Suez and the Red Sea for security reasons, adding a next assessment would be made on Tuesday.

According to Maersk, the company's alliance partner Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) continued to divert all its vessels via the Cape of Good Hope.

MSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The Suez Canal is used by roughly one-third of global container ship cargo, and re-directing ships around the southern tip of Africa is expected to cost up to $1 million extra in fuel for every round trip between Asia and Northern Europe.

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)