Date: 17.04.2024

Red Sea crisis expanding and growing

After the longest period of attack-free shipping in the Red Sea since December, the situation in the region is escalating, with an increase in Houthi attacks, fears that the ‘danger area’ may be expanding into the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean and an Iranian vessel hijack off the Gulf of Oman.

At virtually the same time the US special envoy for Yemen indicated that the US might consider a path to revoking the terrorist designation on the Houthis if attacks on vessels are halted. The Yemeni group resumed attacks after an eight day pause and claimed to have attacked a number of warships and commercial vessels in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. 

The Houthi claims have not been corroborated and it remains uncertain if they have the capability to acquire targets that far out to sea. However, if they have been successful it may have implications for shipping, possibly forcing it to head further east and making access to the Gulf harder.

Iran hijack
In a further, unexpected development, the 15,000 teu MSC Aries was boarded and seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops in international waters off the Gulf of Oman in the Straits of Hormuz on Saturday 13th April.

The Aries was managed by Zodiac Maritime, a firm controlled by the Israel-born shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, but the vessel is currently chartered to MSC and its current links to Zodiac is unclear. 

Iran’s action means the ‘maritime danger zone’ has expanded significantly and the ramifications of this illegal vessel seizure could be massive, potentially providing a catalyst for freight rates to rise in the short-term.

Insurance check
We would recommend double-checking your cargo insurance, to clarify what it covers, but also to ensure its validity should your cargo suddenly be in a war-zone, even if the planned route was not intended to transit a war-zone.

Anticipate increased risk premiums for insurance and freight to and from the Persian Gulf area, and also the Gulf of Oman, and not necessarily labelled as a risk premium but another acronym.

We do not anticipate a full closure of the Strait of Hormuz, it is more likely to resemble the southern Red Sea where some shipping lines will still operate and some will not. However, a partial closure could backfill, escalating port congestion problems at origins including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Port Klang and Indian ports.

Finally, it is clear that threats against shipping made by Iran, and their proxies have not been idle and it might be prudent to recollect the threat made by an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander to target shipping in the Mediterranean. 

Groups in Algeria have received attack drones from Iran, which have the potential to impact shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean.

If you have any questions or concerns about the impact of the Red Sea crisis on your Asia supply chain, or would like to discuss its wider implications, please EMAIL our Chief Commercial Officer, Andy Smith.

For questions about airfreight, sea/air and our suite of time-sensitive solutions EMAIL Elliot Carlile, Operations Director, for insights, prices and advice.

For insurance related questions or concerns please EMAIL our Chief Financial Officer, Laurence Burford.