Chinese shipping giant COSCO has reportedly stopped visiting Israeli ports amid a series of attacks and threats in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi militant group since November 2023. 

The state-owned company is the latest operator to take action to avoid the attacks along the important shipping route according to reports by Israeli business news outlet Globes, which said it learned of the move before international customers were notified. 

By taking the step, COSCO would join other major operators such as Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk in changing their routes, with both companies currently diverting routes away from the Suez Canal and the Red Sea and the Danish company saying it would be taking the action indefinitely. 

COSCO’s reported decision also follows similar action taken by the Orient Overseas Container Line, part of the COSCO Shipping group, which has been diverting its vessels from the Red Sea since December “for the sake of safety of the crew, cargo and ship.” 

While it is likely unsurprising for most to see one of the world’s biggest shipping companies follow its peers in avoiding the high-tension region, Globes’ report questioned the decision due to the unlikeliness of an attack by the Houthi’s on a Chinese ship “because of China’s ties with Iran.” 

But it is unclear if such supposed political alliances would make a difference after Houthi groups said they would targe any vessels in the high-traffic straights.

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By GlobalData

The outlet also raised the impact of the decision on Israeli company ZIM, which works with COSCO on some of its routes, meaning the local operator will likely increase its offerings in the region to make up for the shortfall. 

The Houthi group first warned it would attack Israeli ships in the Red Sea on 14 November 2023 in response to the ongoing conflict in Palestine before later escalating the threat to ships of “any nationality” that were planning to dock in Israel.