Maersk Containership Escapes Missile Attack Amidst Heightened Tensions in the Red Sea

Geopolitical tensions have been the major cause of concern and threat for supply chain managers operating across the affected areas. Most recently, the Israel Hamas war has not only resulted in magnanimous loss of life and property, but has also had ripple effects across the supply chain industry.

In the latest episode of escalating tensions in the Red Sea, the Hong Kong-flagged containership Maersk Gibraltar narrowly avoided disaster when it was targeted by a missile while transiting the Bab el-Mandeb. This incident marks the seventh direct attack on merchant shipping since the Houthi movement in Yemen initiated threats in mid-November.

The missile, launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen, narrowly missed the 10,000 TEU boxship, providing a brief reprieve for the vessel and its crew, who are reported to be safe. Maersk, the vessel’s third-party operator, is actively working to gather facts surrounding the incident, emphasizing the safety of the crew and vessel as their top priority.

Sailing from Salalah, Oman to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Maersk Gibraltar, owned by Greater China Intermodal Investments and managed by Seaspan Ship Management, had not transmitted an Automatic Identification System message since 1159 hrs GMT, raising concerns about the vessel’s safety.

Amidst these attacks, the UK Maritime Trade Operations reported a vessel being ordered to alter course to Yemen by an entity claiming to be the Yemeni Navy. An alert followed, citing reports of an explosion in the Bab el-Mandeb region.

The Houthi movement’s active targeting of vessels with ownership links to Israel and those delivering cargo to Israeli ports has raised global concerns. Despite Maersk Gibraltar not having apparent ownership links to Israel, the ongoing conflict has prompted Maersk to announce an emergency risk surcharge for cargo discharge at Israel terminals, starting January 8, 2024.

In response to the heightened risks, the U.S. is reportedly considering expanding its naval task force in the Red Sea to ensure freedom of navigation and enhance security. BIMCO maritime security head Jakob Larson expressed gratitude for the assistance from the U.S. and French navies but emphasized the need for more military resources to address the situation effectively.

As the international community grapples with the implications of these attacks, concerns persist over the safety of seafarers and the potential impact on global trade. The situation remains dynamic, with efforts underway to navigate the complex geopolitical challenges in the region.

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