Last updated: 12/28/2023

Some Shipping Lines Say Red Sea Route – ‘Still Too Dangerous’

Date: 27 December 2023

Heightened Tensions

In a bold move, Hapag-Lloyd, one of the world's leading shipping giants, has announced its decision not to resume using the Suez Canal, despite ongoing international efforts to secure the region. 

This comes amidst heightened tensions in the Red Sea, where Yemen's Houthi rebels, aligned with Hamas in the Israel-Gaza conflict, have targeted vessels believed to be en route to Israel. The ripple effect of these attacks has prompted several companies to reconsider their use of this crucial trade route.


While Danish shipping company Maersk recently declared its intention to resume Red Sea operations, Hapag-Lloyd remains steadfast in its position, deeming the passage through one of the world's busiest trade routes still "too dangerous." 

Currently holding the rank of the fifth-largest shipping firm globally, Hapag-Lloyd has opted to reroute its ships around the Cape of Good Hope instead. The company, known for its commitment to safety, has stated that it will review its decision on Friday.

Houthi Rebels

The Red Sea, flanked by Yemen to the south, has witnessed attacks on ships by Houthi rebels, involving both drones and rockets. In response, a coalition named Prosperity Guardian, led by the United States, has seen the participation of more than a dozen countries, aiming to safeguard commercial shipping in the region.

Attack on MSC

Hapag-Lloyd's cautious approach follows closely on the heels of an announcement by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), reporting an attack on one of its container ships in the southern Red Sea. 

The vessel, en route from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, suffered fire damage but, fortunately, no injuries were reported. The incident underscores the severity of the security challenges faced by ships traversing this strategic waterway.

Rate Increases & Potential Delays

With the Suez Canal located to the north of the Red Sea, this route stands as one of the world's vital channels for the transportation of consumer goods, oil, and liquefied natural gas. 

The alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope adds approximately 3,500 nautical miles to the journey, raising concerns about potential disruptions to the supply chain and an inevitable increase in prices to compensate for higher transport costs.

Prominent entities like furniture giant Ikea and energy heavyweight BP have already felt the impact of the unrest, with both expressing concerns about potential delays and disruptions to their shipments. Ikea has acknowledged the possibility of delayed supplies, while BP has temporarily halted all crude shipments through the Red Sea.

In contrast, Maersk has cautiously stated that, despite implementing security measures, the overall risk in the area remains. The company emphasized its commitment to seafarer safety and affirmed its readiness to reassess the situation, with a willingness to initiate diversion plans if deemed necessary.

The ramifications of these challenges are not limited to specific industries. Delays vary in length, ranging from 7 to 18 days, depending on the destination. The extended transit times are expected to result in freight rate increases, further impacting the global trade landscape.

Economic Impact

As companies like France's CMA CGM and Maersk tentatively consider reusing the route, the overarching difficulties in the Red Sea region pose a significant threat to various economies. The Red Sea serves as a crucial conduit for trade between Europe and Africa, and any disruptions could have far-reaching consequences.

Egypt, home to the Suez Canal, is particularly vulnerable to the economic fallout. Mohamed Ata, an analyst at the Universal Stock company, highlights the potential impact on Egypt's foreign exchange reserves, already strained by global recession conditions. As one of Egypt's primary sources of foreign currency, any disruptions in the Suez Canal could exacerbate the existing challenges, amplifying the economic strain on the nation.

In conclusion, Hapag-Lloyd's decision to avoid the Red Sea route reflects the complex and precarious situation faced by the shipping industry. As geopolitical tensions persist, the global trade landscape is navigating troubled waters, with stakeholders closely monitoring the evolving situation for its potential impact on supply chains, economies, and international commerce.

Reach out to Proboxx HERE to see if your shipments may be affected and how we can help.

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date with progress, announcements and exclusive discounts. Sign up with your name and email.