Suez Canal navigation uninterrupted despite Red Sea tensions: Rabie

Ahram Online , Thursday 25 Jan 2024

Suez Canal navigation is running regularly and has never halted, not even for a single day, since the onset of the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandeb Strait’s crisis, Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chief Osama Rabie stressed on Thursday.

Suez Canal
File Photo: A vessel crossing Suez Canal waterway. Photo courtesy of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA)

 

Rabie noted that compared to alternative routes, passing through the Suez Canal saves fuel, thus reducing carbon emissions. In 2023, he said, using the Suez Canal reduced carbon emissions by nearly 55.4 million tons and contributed to conserving almost 16.9 million tons of fuel.

Rabie’s remarks came during a virtual meeting with the recently-appointed International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez to discuss the evolving circumstances in the Red Sea.

Rabie stressed that the Red Sea crisis notwithstanding, the SCA continues to provide its navigational services seamlessly and support its clients to minimize the impact of the current circumstances on them.

On Monday, the SCA announced deploying an emergency team to provide maintenance and repairs services for dry bulk vessel ZOGRAFIA, which was targeted in an attack by Houthi rebels the previous week while heading north in the south Red Sea.

Tensions are running high in the Red Sea as Houthis keep attacking Israel-linked shipping near the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb Strait in the crucial maritime route. The Houthis had previously cited Israel's brutal war on Gaza as the pretext for their attacks.

In retaliation, the US and the UK launched strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

Consequently, several shipping firms have suspended all journeys through the Red Sea, preferring Africa’s Cape of Good Hope route.

Last week, Rabie stressed that the decision of some shipping companies to reroute from the Suez Canal is a temporary measure driven by security concerns amid the ongoing escalation in the Red Sea.

However, he stated that dollar revenues from the Suez Canal declined by 40 percent during the first two weeks of January, compared to the same period last year, and that the number of passing ships had declined by 30 percent.

During Thursday’s virtual meeting, Rabie emphasized that the current situation signals an escalation in harmful carbon emissions as ships consume more fuel when opting for alternative routes, navigating longer distances for more extended periods than usual.

The SCA head noted that the Suez Canal achieves significant time and distance savings compared to alternative routes, resulting in a fuel consumption reduction ranging from 10 to 90 percent, depending on departure and arrival ports.

For his part, Dominguez emphasized the imperative of supporting freedom of navigation and advocating for de-escalation in the Red Sea region.

He reiterated the IMO's full support for the Suez Canal, which remains open to all, especially given the logistical, security, and environmental challenges posed by alternative routes such as the Cape of Good Hope route, which he described as unsustainable and lacking in necessary services.

On Tuesday, the EU's trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said maritime traffic through the Red Sea shipping route has fallen by 22 percent in a month due to attacks on international vessels by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Dombrovskis added that the traffic has decreased even more now that shipping companies are rerouting their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope.

According to Drewry, a maritime research consultancy, at least 90 percent of the container ships that used to pass through the Suez Canal are now rerouting around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.

Rerouting has caused a 3 percent decline in world trade in December, as goods remain on ships rather than being offloaded at ports.

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