AP Moller-Maersk has instructed all its vessels headed for the southern entrance to the Red Sea to halt immediately due to heightened hijack fears. 

The Danish cargo giant sent a message to all its crews in the vicinity of the Bab al-Mandab Strait to stop after the Maersk Gibraltar was attacked on Thursday, and another line’s vessel was attacked on Friday, 15 December. 

“We are deeply concerned about the highly escalated security situation in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the area are alarming and pose a significant threat to the safety and security of seafarers,” Maersk said in a statement. 

“We are committed to best possibly ensuring the stability of our customers’ supply chains, and we are working closely with all our logistics teams and are taking steps to minimize impacts to customers,” they added, without saying what the stranded vessels would be instructed to do next. 

Hijacking incidents on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have increased since Houthi rebels seized the Galaxy Leader in retaliation for Israel’s war with Hamas. The Yemeni group claimed the ship was Israeli-owned, and warned other Israel-linked ships of further attacks. 

On Monday the Houthi group said it was extending its threat to all shipping transiting the Bab al-Mandab corridor. 

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By GlobalData

On Friday 8 December the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) warned of unidentified individuals in the Red Sea attempting to commandeer vessels by claiming to be “Yemeni authorities”.

The Red Sea and Suez Canal is a crucial shipping route, impacting global trade when issues arise. The Ever Given incident of 2021 showed exactly how impactful its closure can be. 

The Maersk decision, if echoed by other major freight movers, could have a drastic impact on sea trade markets, according to experts. 

Before the Maersk order, Peter Sand, chief analyst at Xeneta warned of the price hikes that could be seen if the route is closed, even for a matter of days. 

“The main alternative is to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which adds up to 10 days sailing time for services from Asia to North Europe and East Mediterranean.

“We may also see the cost of moving freight by ocean increase dramatically. Depending on the scale and duration of any disruption at the Suez Canal, we could see ocean freight shipping rates increase by anything up to 100%.”