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Maersk says expanded Houthi attacks are forcing more delays

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Global shipping lines have become increasingly strained as the Houthi militia in Yemen broadens its attacks on cargo vessels, one of the largest companies in the industry warned Monday.

“The risk zone has expanded,” Maersk, the second-largest ocean carrier, said in a note to customers, adding that the stress was causing further delays and higher costs.

Since late last year, the Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea, which cargo vessels from Asia have to travel through to reach the Suez Canal. This has forced ocean carriers to avoid the sea and take a much longer route to Europe around the southern tip of Africa. But in recent weeks, the Houthis have been trying to strike ships making that longer journey in the Indian Ocean.

Because going around Africa takes longer, shipping companies have had to add more vessels to ensure that they can transport goods on time and without cutting volumes.

The threat to vessels in the Indian Ocean has only added to the difficulties. “This has forced our vessels to lengthen their journey further, resulting in additional time and costs to get your cargo to its destination for the time being,” Maersk said.

The company estimated that putting extra ships and equipment onto the Asia to Europe route would result in a 15% to 20% drop in industrywide capacity in the three months through the end of June.That said, shipping companies have plenty of capacity available because they have ordered many new ships in recent years.Maersk said Monday that customers should expect to see higher surcharges on shipping invoices as a result of the higher costs borne by the shipping line, which include a 40% increase in fuel use per journey.

The cost of shipping a container from Asia to a northern European port was $3,550 last week, according to Freightos, a digital shipping marketplace, down from a recent high of $5,492 in January, and well below rates that climbed above $14,000 when global shipping became snarled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, have said their attacks were in response to Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

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Sromplexport offers international trade services, including product sourcing, quality control, logistics, and customs clearance. Our ethical and transparent approach simplifies the import/export process for clients in various industries.