Japanese shipping firms suspend Red Sea sailings

AFP , Wednesday 17 Jan 2024

Japan's three major shipping firms said Wednesday they are joining other major companies in suspending routes through the Red Sea over Houthi rebel attacks on vessels in the vital waterway.

File Photo - In this photo provided by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, taken from the bridge of HMS Diamond, Sea Viper missiles are fired in the Red Sea. AP


"We have suspended navigation through the Red Sea by all ships we operate," a spokesman for Nippon Yusen, also known as NYK Line, told AFP, adding the decision was to "ensure the safety of crews".

Two other major Japanese shipping firms -- Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines -- have also suspended navigation through the Red Sea, company spokespersons said.

Since Friday, US and British forces have been bombing scores of targets inside Houthi-controlled Yemen in response to the attacks by the rebels, who say they are targeting Israeli-linked shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with Gaza.

The situation has heightened fears of the Israeli war on Gaza flaring across the region and disrupted trade in one of the world's key maritime commercial routes.

The waterway between Asian and European markets normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

Diverting around the southern tip of Africa takes longer and is more expensive.

"Vessels which we operate and that were about to enter the Red Sea soon are asked to stay away from entering the Gulf of Aden" south of the Red Sea, a spokeswoman for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines told AFP.

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha's spokesman Goro Kitamura said the company also "suspended navigation into the Red Sea since Friday, but we don't have vessels near the Red Sea right now".

Last month, Ocean Network Express, a container shipping business jointly set up by the three Japanese firms, said they would avoid the area.

In November, Huthi rebels said they had seized a ship owned by an Israeli businessman and rerouted it to Yemen's coast.

The vessel is operated by Nippon Yusen, which said it had set up a task team to gather information to ensure the safety of the 25-strong crew.

As of Wednesday, however, Nippon Yusen has no fresh information on the seized ship, the spokesman said.

"We have received no information, while we are worried about" the fate of the vessel and its crew, he said.

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