Shipping Groups Urge Governments to Halt Houthi Attacks in Red Sea

Leading shipping groups have implored influential governments to intervene and halt the Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, following the sinking of a second freighter this week. The appeals come amid escalating concerns over the safety of seafarers and the impact on global supply chains.

The recent surge in attacks has claimed the lives of at least 3 seafarers, with the latest incident likely adding another fatality. More than a dozen shipping associations, including the International Chamber of Shipping and the World Shipping Council, issued a statement on Wednesday emphasizing the grave human toll and urging immediate action.

The ongoing conflict has severely disrupted one of the world’s key maritime trade routes, effectively closing it to container ships since late last year. The resulting longer detour around the southern tip of Africa has driven up shipping costs and caused congestion at ports in Asia and Europe, posing a significant threat to global supply chains.

The shipping associations decried the attacks on innocent seafarers, who are essential in maintaining the flow of goods worldwide. They described the situation as deplorable and unacceptable, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and protection for the maritime workforce. They urged states with influence in the region to take swift action to safeguard seafarers and de-escalate the conflict in the Red Sea.

The statement coincided with confirmation from UK Maritime Trade Operations, part of the Royal Navy, that a Greek-owned coal carrier had sunk after being targeted by the Houthis. The vessel, named MV Tutor, is believed to have lost at least one crew member in the attack.

This incident marks the second fatal attack involving seafarers caught in geopolitical conflicts. The Houthis previously downed the British-registered vessel Rubymar in March, using ballistic missiles. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, based in Yemen, began their campaign of drone and missile strikes on Red Sea vessels in November, claiming retaliation against Israel’s war in Gaza. Additionally, they have seized a vessel and its crew, who remain hostage.

Beyond the tragic loss of life, the attacks have severely impacted the transit through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a crucial passage accounting for 10-15% of global trade. Major shipping companies, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have rerouted their ships around Africa, significantly extending voyage times and costs.

Freight rates have surged due to these disruptions. The composite cost of shipping a typical 40-foot container on major East-West routes soared to $5,117 in the week to Thursday, a 233% increase from a year ago, as reported by London-based shipping consultancy Drewry. Carriers have imposed emergency surcharges to mitigate the impact, with Maersk temporarily increasing some charges last month.

As the crisis continues to unfold, the call from shipping groups for decisive government intervention becomes increasingly urgent to protect seafarers and stabilize the global shipping industry.

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