Because of threats posed by the rebel Houthi forces in Yemen, an increased number of merchant ships are avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal in favour of rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
It began with an attack and seizure of an Israeli-owned car carrier, the NYK-operated Galaxy Leader, captured by the rebels and taken to an anchorage off the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
Since then several other ships have come under attack from drones and missiles fired from Yemen, amid statements issued by the Houthis that any ship associated with Israel in any manner, would be attacked or seized.
With these threats having been carried out, and a number of drones and missiles being destroyed by American and French warships on patrol in the Red Sea, some ship operators have begun taking the decision to instead route their ships the long way round between Europe and the Indian Ocean.
This is being applied to head-haul and back-haul voyages, which are taking longer to complete but safely avoiding any danger to the ships and their crews.
Analyst Alphaliner calculated that a diversion around the Cape of Good Hope on a voyage from Shanghai to Rotterdam at a speed of 18 knots would increase the transit time from 25 to 33 days.
This will bring a possible benefit to bunker suppliers in South Africa and Mauritius for vessels having to refuel along the longer journey.
Similarly, the problems being experienced at the Panama Canal with low water is resulting in a number of ships operating between the Far East and the American east coast, having to also travel via the Indian Ocean and Cape of Good Hope.
According to Alphaliner, at least 12 container ships of The Alliance’s EC1 service were expected to divert from their established Red Sea routes over the coming week and round the Cape instead.
This is thought to be in response to the drone and missile attack on the OOCL vessel Number 9, reported here last week, in Africa Ports & Ships.
It is also reported that Saudi Arabia has halted crude shipments through Bab-el-Mandeb, the narrow strait between the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea.