Shipping giant Maersk prepares to resume operations in Red Sea

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The methanol-fueled container vessel Laura Maersk sits at anchor in harbour after an official naming ceremony in Copenhagen, Denmark, September 14, 2023. 

Tom Little | Reuters

Denmark’s Maersk is preparing to resume shipping operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the company said on Sunday, citing the deployment of a U.S.-led military operation designed to ensure the safety of commerce in the area.

The shipping giant paused sending vessels through the Bab el-Mandeb strait earlier in December due to attacks against its ships. That rendered the Suez Canal, which is key to global commerce, unusable for most routes.

The United States said on Tuesday it was launching a multinational operation to protect commerce in the Red Sea from Iran-backed Yemeni militants, who have been firing drones and missiles at international vessels since last month in what they say is a response to Israel’s war in Gaza.

“As of Sunday, 24 December 2023, we have received confirmation that the previously announced multi-national security initiative Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) has now been set up and deployed to allow maritime commerce to pass through the Red Sea / Gulf of Aden and once again return to using the Suez Canal as a gateway between Asia and Europe,” Masersk said in a statement on Sunday.

“With the OPG initiative in operation, we are preparing to allow for vessels to resume transit through the Red Sea both eastbound and westbound.”

Maersk said it would release more details in the coming days. But it said it could again resort to diverting ship traffic depending on how safety conditions evolved.

On Tuesday, Maersk said it was rerouting ships around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. It said it would impose container surcharges for shipments from Asia to cover the extra costs associated with the longer journey.

Several other firms have stopped transiting the Red Sea on safety concerns in recent weeks, as has oil major BP.

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