Maersk to decide on Red Sea route as Hapag-Lloyd extends diversions around Cape

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Denmark’s Maersk said it will decide on Tuesday whether to resume sending vessels through the Suez Canal via the Red Sea or follow rival Hapag-Lloyd in continuing to re-route them after a weekend attack on one of its ships.

The container shipping giant on Sunday paused all Red Sea sailings for 48 hours following attempts by Yemen-based Houthi militants to board the Maersk Hangzhou. US military helicopters repelled the assault and killed 10 of the attackers.

Maersk had more than 30 container vessels set to sail through Suez via the Red Sea, an advisory on Monday showed, while 17 other voyages were put on hold.

A decision will be taken on Tuesday regarding how to proceed, a company spokesperson said.

Hapag-Lloyd said on Tuesday its vessels would continue to divert away from the Red Sea — sailing via southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope instead — until at least January 9.

The company will decide then whether or not to continue re-routing its ships, a spokesperson said.

Oil prices rose in the first session of the new year, boosted by potential disruption to Middle Eastern supply after the latest Red Sea attack.

Shares in shipping companies have risen since the crisis began on expectations that longer routes will result in higher freight rates.

Unlisted French shipping group CMA CGM increased its container shipping rates from Asia to the Mediterranean region by up to 100% as of January 15 compared to January 1, it said on its website on Tuesday.

Shares in Maersk were up 6.3% in late afternoon trading. Hapag-Lloyd shares were up 4.1%.

The Hangzhou, which was hit by an unknown object during the attack, was able to continue on its way with LSEG shipping data showing the vessel close to the Suez Canal.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who control parts of Yemen after years of war, started attacking international shipping in November in support for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in its war with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Major shipping groups, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have stopped using Red Sea routes, instead taking the longer journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

After the deployment of a US-led military operation to protect ships, however, Maersk on December 24 said it would resume using the Red Sea.

According to Maersk, its alliance partner Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was continuing to divert its vessels via the Cape of Good Hope.

MSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Suez Canal is used by roughly one third of global container ship cargo.

Re-directing ships around the southern tip of Africa is expected to cost up to $1m (R18.56m) in extra in fuel for every round trip between Asia and northern Europe.


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