Maersk Warns of Disruptions as Vessels Reroute for the Foreseeable Future

January 7, 2024 GENERAL

Maersk is warning customers to be prepared for complications due to the ongoing security issues in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and the potential for “significant disruption to the global network,” as it extended its decision to divert vessels of the “foreseeable future.” In an advisory issued to customers on January 5, the carrier said that it understands the potential impact of its decision and hopes by announcing that it is suspending all voyages in the region it can bring “consistency and predictability despite the associated delays.”

The world’s second-largest container carrier has warned since mid-December when it began diverting some voyages that 15 of its service routes were being directly impacted by rerouting vessels. After an attempt to let some vessels continue their scheduled voyages, Maersk however again paused all transits in the region after one of its vessels was attacked on two consecutive days. While the crew was safe and the vessel was able to continue its voyage, Maersk said it had to prioritize the safety of its vessels, seafarers, and customers’ cargo.

“The situation is constantly evolving and remains highly volatile, and all available intelligence at hand confirms that the security risk continues to be at a significantly elevated level,” writes in its customer advisory. “We have therefore decided that all Maersk vessels due to transit the Red Sea / Gulf of Aden will be diverted south around the Cape of Good Hope for the foreseeable future.”

Maersk says the decision was made after careful consideration and while it continues to hope for a “sustainable resolution in the near future,” it believes this is the best course of action both for the company and customers. They warn that the previously announced Transit Disruption Surcharge, Peak Season Surcharge, and Emergency Contingency Surcharge for all cargo on vessels affected by the disruption remain in effect. However, they believe by announcing the decision customers can better prepare.

Maersk is not alone in monitoring the situation while reporting that it remains too unstable for vessels to pass through the region. Hapag-Lloyd also began diversions on December 21 while its crisis committee continues to review the situation. Hapag confirmed today that its team will review the situation again on Monday, January 9, but currently, nothing has changed in its position since it began rerouting vessels last month.

While reports have said over 200 containerships have been rerouted, some carriers continue some service in the region. Data from the Panama Canal shows overall traffic was down by a quarter in the second half of December with the biggest decline coming from all segments of cargo ships. The number of tanker transits was mostly stable.

One carrier, CMA CGM, is following a different strategy. They confirmed to Reuters today that they continue to send vessels through the Red Sea and Suez Canal and are continuing with a plan to gradually increase the number of vessels returning to the routes through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. This comes despite confirmation from CMA CGM that one of its vessels experienced nearby explosions. The Houthis said they targeted the CMA CGM Tage (9,200 TEU) at the beginning of the week because the company’s other vessels sail to Israel.