Containerships remain in Red Sea limbo

At least nine large containerships are idling in the Red Sea after halting their southbound passage of the Bab el Mandab Strait

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The 18,270 teu Mary Maersk appears have aborted its southbound passage of the Red Sea. [Source: Hasenpusch Photo]

The Evergreen-operated 20,000 teu boxship Ever Goods is continuing its southbound transit of the Red Sea, while Maersk’s 18,270 teu Mary Maersk appears to have turned around and is heading northbound. Seven other large containerships remain halted in the Red Sea

Several ultra large containerships bound from Europe to Asia remain idle in the Red Sea after halting their voyages late last week, although Maersk now appears to be taking decisive action in diverting previously idling tonnage via the Cape of Good Hope.

Analysis of Lloyd’s List Intelligence data shows the Cosco-operated 13,000 teu Cosco Faith (IMO: 9472141) and the 21,000 teu Cosco Shipping Galaxy (IMO: 9795634) have been more or less stationary in the Red Sea since Sunday, December 17, while the Ocean Network Express-operated, 20,000 teu, ONE Triumph (IMO: 9769271) and 14,000 teu ONE Apus (IMO: 9806079) both halted their southbound transits on Friday, December 15.

Two Asia/Europe-trading vessels operated by MSC and Hapag-Lloyd also remain idle in the Red Sea after aborting their southbound transits.

However, the Evergreen-chartered, 20,000 teu Ever Goods (IMO: 9810991) appears to have continued on its passage of the Red Sea and is sailing at its maximum speed of 20 knots towards the Bab el Mandab Strait.

Meanwhile Maersk has confirmed today that it has started to mobilise previously halted containerships destined for the Red Sea, following its announcement to pause its vessels on December 15. 

“Having monitored developments closely, Maersk has decided that out of safety reasons all vessels previously paused and due to sail through the region will now be rerouted around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. They will continue their voyages on the diverted routes as soon as operationally feasible.”

It said for all future vessel sailings planned through Red Sea “a case-by-case assessment will take place to determine whether adjustments need to be made — including diversions via the Cape of Good Hope and further contingency measures”.

One Maersk vessel, the 18,270 teu Mary Maersk (IMO: 9619921), previously heading southbound in the Red Sea but halted on December 15 appears to have been turned earlier today and could be returning to the Suez Canal. Maersk was unable to confirm whether the vessel was being rerouted, however. 

Vespucci Maritime chief executive Lars Jensen said on LinkedIn that it seemed all containerships 16,000 teu and bigger were diverting to take the round-Africa route. 

“Likewise, the Mediterranean is almost entirely a one-way street of vessels heading for the Straits of Gibraltar. Somewhat akin to seeing a bathtub being drained,” he said. 

“A few remain stuck in the Red Sea with a choice between running the missile gauntlet by the Houthis or pay, ultimately, more than $500,000 to get through the Suez Canal to get back to the Med.”

The last Asia/Europe trade containership to enter the Red Sea from the south was Evergreen’s 24,000 teu Ever ALP (IMO: 9893929) on Saturday, December 16. However, in common with all major mainline operators Evergreen has since disclosed that vessels operating between the Far East and Europe would be routed via the Cape of Good Hope. 

by Rob Willmington for Lloyds List

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