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ESPO concern over impacts of escalating Red Sea conflict

(Posted on 18/01/24)

Following the serious attacks on ships, mainly - but not only - container ships, in the Red Sea by the Houthi movement, shipping lines decided to redirect their ships around the Cape of Good Hope in order to avoid the operators risks of attacks to both vessel and crew. With these attacks the rebels are seriously hampering the traffic through the Suez Canal which is a strategic waterway and the fastest shipping route between Asia and Europe. The rerouting adds another 3,000-3,500 nautical miles (6,000km) to this route and can make the voyage Asia- Europe 8 to 15 days longer, depending on the shipping segment.

The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) fully shares the safety concerns of the shipping lines and the need to protect the crews and avoid any risk of attack on vessels. Europe’s ports underline their strong concerns about this escalating situation, which is also causing important disruptions in the supply chain and risks to hamper the just in time deliveries to certain industries in the short run. Ports moreover see container rates going up steeply, and reaching again the extreme high rates that were being applied by shipping lines during COVID.

“The situation in the Red Sea jeopardises the passage through the Suez Canal, which is the main maritime artery connecting Asia and Europe. This crisis is once again creating major supply chain disruptions, and is adding an element of uncertainty to an already very difficult geo-economic and geopolitical environment. The longer routes, and possible re-organisation of calls in Europe will be impacting ports, which have to adapt and be flexible in view of keeping the supply chains going. In the case of the Ever Given, we were faced with an unfortunate accident and the solution depended on technical and operational expertise. Now, we are facing a geopolitical hindrance of a major commercial trading route, which makes it more difficult and unpredictable to solve.”, says Zeno D’Agostino, chair of ESPO.

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