It is being widely reported that CMA CGM Group reversed course and has again decided to suspend transits in the Red Sea. The move comes after a containership operating under charter to the company was apparently targeted twice by the Houthis in the past two days and weeks after CEO Rodolphe Saade detailed the problems of operating in the area during an interview with The Financial Times.
The French company on Thursday morning denied in a statement to the wire services that the Liberia-flagged vessel Koi (102,500 dwt) had been hit by a Houthi missile after a spokesperson for the Yemeni rebels declared that they had set the ship heading for Israel on fire. CMA CGM asserted that the ship diverted to Djibouti for a medical evacuation and was continuing its trip north toward the Suez Canal.
Hours later, midday local time Thursday U.S. Central Command and the UK Maritime Trade Organizations however confirmed that the same ship had again seen nearby explosions. They said the vessel which was approximately 57 nautical miles to the west of Al Hudaydah, Yemen was undamaged and proceeding after CENTCOM reported two anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired toward the ship. The ship is managed by a British firm which is held by a portfolio company by US-based JP Morgan Chase and the same manager as the Marlin Luanda attacked and set on Friday a week ago.
CMA CGM has not publicly confirmed a change, but according to Bloomberg the company informed crews on Friday morning. Bloomberg reports that the company will continue some transits of the Suez Canal to maintain service in the Northern Red, likely for shipments to and from Saudi Arabia. Hapag-Lloyd recently announced it would be running containers overland in Saudi Arabia while it avoids the Southern Red Sea.
In December and again in January, CMA CGM said that it was continuing to send some vessels through the Red Sea. Other ships were diverting around Africa. Saade told The Financial Times that the problems had left the company’s schedule “in complete disarray.” He said they were sending vessels through the region if they could be accompanied by a warship. It was on a case-by-case basis he told the newspaper and that they were often experiencing delays waiting for their escorts. The tally of attacks being reported by EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta reflects at least one other CMA CGM-owned vessel having reported nearby explosions in January.
The Koi is proceeding on course with its last AIS signal showing the vessel was north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as of midday today, February 2. The ship is reportedly scheduled to transit the Suez Canal on Saturday, February 3. Recently, pictures released by the Suez Canal Authority showed several CMA CGM vessels, including its large LNG-powered vessels, still making the transit.
The decision to suspend transit would follow a similar path to Maersk. The company initially paused transits in mid-December after one of its ships was targeted. It later said it was selectively sending some ships through the Red Sea, but on December 31 another Maersk ship was attacked and then the company said it was stopping all transits.
The Houthi have vowed to continue their attacks on shipping associated with Israel as well as saying U.S. and UK commercial shipping and warships were targets in retaliation for the strikes on Houthi positions. Today, the Houthis however instead fired their missiles toward Israel with reports that the southern port city of Eilat was targeted. Israeli media is saying that the country’s long-range missile defense system downed a missile over the Red Sea.