Bertling Client Notification on the Red Sea Situation - 12.03.2024


The first fatal attack on a commercial vessel in the Red Sea since Iran-backed Houthi rebels began targeting ships late last year has laid bare the enormous challenge of restoring safe passage along one of the world’s most important trade routes. At least three crew members were killed, and four others injured in the assault Wednesday on the M/V True Confidence, a Liberian-owned bulk carrier, one of the ships that transport dry cargo such as grain and iron ore.
(Source: Fatal Houthi rebel attack may be a ‘red line’ in Red Sea shipping crisis)

Houthis claim first casualty as Rubymar sinks two weeks after attack: Holed by two Houthi missiles two weeks ago, the 28-year-old Rubymar has finally sunk leaving a fuel oil slick and 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate to clean up. The sunken bulker presents an environmental risk and a navigational hazard to shipping.
(Source: Houthis claim first casualty as Rubymar sinks two weeks after attack)

Many of the world’s top ocean freight stakeholders are gathered in Long Beach last week for the annual TPM conference, which this year takes place under the shadow of continued Red Sea disruptions. The conference commenced alongside news of another container ship hit by a missile strike, and new developments in the saga, including the first sunk vessel, and Houthi demands that ships obtain a permit from the rebel group in order to transit Yemeni waters.
(Source: Freightos  Weekly Update – 6 March 2024)

Related News

What’s driving Asia-Europe trade?

Client notification - Red Sea/Suez situation



From a purely commercial perspective of container shipping: Service from the Far East to destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Europe and US East Coast, are now running fairly smoothly around the cape of good hope. And freight rates have declined since mid-Jan. To the extent of 15-20% since then as per Xeneta's real-time market data and benchmarking platform. (Source:


A major carrier has recently upped the War Risk. AAL continues to operate multipurpose heavy lift sailings through the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden region.

Following notification of a further, significant increase in insurance premiums required for these sailings - with risk levels elevated – AAL are increasing their ‘Emergency Red Sea Surcharge’ (ERSS) with immediate effect for all forthcoming sailings through the region to USD 10.00 per R/T (increased from USD 5 per R/T).

An increase in the multipurpose vessel index (MPP Index) has been partly attributed due to the Red Sea situation. (Source: Red Sea circumnavigation bumps MPP Index up in March (

While the Red Sea situation remains volatile, we can expect carriers to take evasive action at any time.


After the Lunar New Year we see air freight rates stabilising again and this trend is likely to continue into Q2 2024. The impact of the Red Sea incident on air freight remains limited. There is increased interest in airfreight services on the Asia-Europe trade and services via Saudi Arabia and/or Dubai, but many companies still prefer to ship their cargo via COGH, which still makes the most commercial sense and is generally more accepted as customers seem to get used to the disruption.

Rather than switching to pure airfreight solutions, customers are increasingly looking at multimodal transport solutions such as sea-air logistics. However, capacity constraints may become an issue for this solution. (Source: What’s driving Asia-Europe trade?)

SURCHARGES (no changes since last report from 27.02.2024)

Diversions away from the Suez Canal have hit ocean freight trades hard from Asia to the Mediterranean, North Europe and US East Coast. However, it could be argued cargoes moving in the opposite direction on the backhauls have been hit even harder by these surcharges.

Effect – North Europe to Far East.

Moving from USD 400 per FEU by the end of 2023 to more than USD 1,000 per FEU by mid-February, market average spot freight rates have gone up by 150% in six weeks.

Within these market average spot rates, some shippers have been paying upwards of USD 1,000 in additional costs while others have managed to avoid surcharges altogether, with an average of USD 591 per FEU.

Effect – Mediterranean to Far East

Surcharges are spread in the range of USD 400 (mid-low) and USD 1,100 (mid-high) per FEU, with an average of USD 639.

Effect – North Europe to Australia and New Zealand

Shippers and BCOs are paying average surcharges of USD 854 per FEU within a total spot rate of USD 2,400 per FEU. This positions the trade slightly above a classic backhaul and slightly below a classic fronthaul in terms of the total spot rate and percentage of surcharges to overall cost.

Wide-ranging effects

The effects of the crisis are highly individual, and shippers, carriers, and freight forwarders are fighting as hard as they can and entering negotiations with the single aim of reducing the effect of the crisis on their business as much as possible – whether that is through surcharges or service reliability.

Surcharges are more significant on long-term rates

For a standard FEU, the Red Sea surcharge for exports out of the Mediterranean on long term contracts sits higher than North European exports, with a spread of USD 162. However, while the market low for both trades sits at USD 400, the market high sits at USD 1,295 for the Mediterranean and USD 750 for North Europe. Bringing a reefer out of North Europe heading for Far East, the average surcharge sits at USD 1,007 per box.


Following the recent fatal attack on the M/V True Confidence causing deaths, we expect shipping lines to review their remaining schedules/passages through the Suez Canal (e.g. CMA, MSC).

According to Windward, the number of bulk carriers anchoring outside ports to the north and south of the Suez Canal surged 225% Wednesday compared with the previous day. “Our data shows that 61% of these (anchored) after 13:30 UTC (18:30 ET), which was the time of the attack,” Windward CEO Ami Daniel told CNN.

He expects the attack will lead to even larger numbers of bulk carriers avoiding the Canal, through which 10-15% of world trade and 30% of container trade passes. “The propensity that something will happen is higher than people thought and the severity of the impact, once something happens, is (worse) than people thought,” he added.

Windward data shows that last month the number of bulk carriers in the Red Sea was already at its lowest level in two years. (Source: Fatal Houthi rebel attack may be a ‘red line’ in Red Sea shipping crisis).


We don’t see the Red Sea situation changing any time soon and the above-mentioned trends are likely to continue into H2 2024.


This ongoing crisis will continue to impact rates and increase service unreliability to global supply chains. It is important to stay up to date, book well in advance, potentially look for alternatives and contact us on time to discuss your transport inquiry.

We commend our customers to be flexible in these times of uncertainty. They need to have the ability to enter the North American market from different endpoints, be it the West Coast, Gulf, or the East Coast via vessel or also considering airfreight as alternative transport modes.

We are here by your side to keep your supply chains moving and identifying the most suitable mode and route for your cargo transport. Contact your local Bertling office for further updates:

Contacts for more information

For air freight inquiries:

Janine Seemke

Global Head of Airfreight

P: +49 40 32335554
M:+49 173 3893139


For sea freight inquiries:

Samuel Semple

Group Pricing Manager – Ocean Freight (FL)

P: +49 40 3233550
M:+49 1732069897


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