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Suez Canal Denies Suspension of Transits Rumor After Red Sea Attacks

Suez Canal
Suez Canal reports transits are continuing despite the security problems in the southern Red Sea (SCA file photo)

Published Jan 12, 2024 3:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The Suez Canal Authority issued a statement on Friday, January 12, denying rumors that its operations had been impacted by the overnight strikes by U.S. and UK forces and the resumption of attacks by the Houthi rebels. The statement came as the military forces have advised ships to avoid the area around Yemen and trade associations and security consultants have warned that the situation was likely to remain unsettled and very dangerous for the next few days.

“There is no truth to the suspension of navigation in the canal as a result of developments in the situation in the Red Sea region,” the Suez Canal Authority Chairman Lieutenant General Osama Rabie was quoted as saying in the statement. “Navigation is regular in both directions.”

In an attempt to highlight stability, the Suez Canal Authority reports that tomorrow, January 13, 44 ships are scheduled to transit the canal representing 2.3 million tons. That, however, is down more than 40 percent compared to mid-December. The canal reported on December 18, a month into the conflict and as carriers including Maersk and Hapag announced suspending transits after their vessels had been targeted, that 77 vessels with a total net tonnage of 4 million tons made the transit.

Tomorrow’s scheduled transits in both directions are equal to the northbound transits on April 21, 2023, when the Suez Canal set a record for daily volume. Eight months ago, without the geopolitical situation, the Suez Canal achieved a total of 95 ships in one day, 43 northbound representing 2.8 million net tons and 52 southbound also representing 2.8 million net tons. The 95-ship record was a total of 5.6 million net tons.

 

Photo supplied by Suez Canal Authority showing transits on January 13, 2024... note the CMA CGM large containership

 

The authority has said it is closely monitoring the situation while also communicating with its customers. They highlighted discussions between the chairman and Maersk as well as with CMA CGM. The French carrier has said that it would continue transits of the Suez and the Red Sea on a selective basis and the SCA said the company told them in a call yesterday, January 11, that it was closely monitoring developments. The SCA said the French carrier remains “keen to maintain the continuity of transits,” but confirmed that some ships are resorting to detouring around the Cape of Good Hope.

While not commenting on the strikes against the Houthi positions, both Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk told reporters today that they appreciate efforts to restore safety to the Red Sea passage. Maersk said it welcomes the naval presence hoping that it would reduce the threat while CEO Vincent Clerc speaking with the Financial Times prior to the strikes warned it could take months to stabilize the region.

The majority of boxships, 500 of 700 scheduled to make the transit have rerouted according to Container xChange. The rerouting is playing havoc on shipping schedules and the cost of shipping. Drewry reports its widely followed World Container Index increased by 15 percent this week with 40-foot containers surpassing $3,000. Rates on the Shanghai-Europe route topped $3,100 for a 20-foot container while on the routes to the U.S. West Coast 40-foot box rates are just under $4,000 according to Clarksons.

 

More transits on January 13, 2024 (SCA)