Marine AI company Windward has revealed the continuing depth of disruptions felt by the global shipping trade with the Red Sea still dominating negative trends. 

Traffic through the Bab al-Mandab straight dropped a further 67% in the first three months of 2024, compared to the already low Q4 2023 figure. As a result of major shipping firms’ diversions the traffic navigating the Cape of Good Hope increased 134% in Q1. 

Houthi attacks on international shipping have unsurprisingly changed the vessels that are traversing the channel between Yemen and Djibouti. Monthly averages of flag presence in the area fell by 86% for Singaporean flags, 92% for Norwegian, and 100% for Chinese flags. 

But more notably, from zero Iranian-flagged ships passing through the straight in 2023, the monthly average in Q1 2024 was 2.3. 

A similar picture emerges when the Beneficial Owner (BO) of vessels are investigated, according to the Windward report. 

There was a 387% increase in Russian BO tanker shipping in the Red Sea in Q1, and a 53% increase in Iranian BO cargo shipping through the region. 

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Meanwhile, in Russia 

Russian oil exports by sea remain officially stunted, but Dark/Grey fleet activity and continued ship-to-ship transfer make the reality unclear. 

Windward’s report said the figures showed “the substantial impact of increasing sanctions” by the US and EU on Russia, following its invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, while voyages for Russian tankers to India dropped, there was a 15% increase in traffic to Africa, with Libya specified as a key recipient.  

While there has also been an overall drop in oil transferred via ship-to-ship meetings including at least one vessel coming from Russia, there has again been a change in destination for those transfers that have still occurred. 

57% fewer ships were destined for China, and 53% fewer went to the Middle East. Instead, there was a 100% jump in the number of ships destined for African ports after meeting a Russian ship to receive transferred oil. 


The size of the Dark fleet has fallen slightly according to Windward’s register, although the Grey fleet grew 12% in Q1. 

While Russia remains the main destination for these vessels, Singapore has seen a large growth in Grey fleet visits in the first quarter of 2024. Panama, Liberia, and Russia are key to the illegal shipping trade, with the flags dominating both Dark and Grey shipping.