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Houthi Bribe Allegations Rock Shipping Market

John Konrad
Total Views: 8411
January 8, 2024

by John Konrad (gCaptain) Shares of the Israeli shipping company Zim plunged over 17 percent in premarket trading today following reports that their Chinese partner COSCO is withdrawing from Israel. However, Wall Street shipping analysts suggest that this development is not the sole factor unsettling the market. ShippingWatch, a Danish maritime news service, has reported rumors that a containership line may have bribed Houthi officials to avoid targeting their vessels.

The news, reported by ShippingWatch—a subsidiary of Denmark’s Watch Media Group—alleges that in late December, a shipping carrier struck a deal with Houthi militants, agreeing not to target their vessels. This agreement comes amid an escalating threat level in the Red Sea and the United States’ challenges securing allied support for the US Navy-led Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG).

As of this morning, none of the sources we’ve consulted at gCaptain have any knowledge of negotiations involving ship owners and two main carriers have denied participating in any bribes.

The report comes shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomatic visits to Turkey and Greece, which resulted in the deployment of a Greek “Hydra” frigate to the multinational Operation Prosperity Guardian.

ShippingWatch, citing multiple Middle Eastern sources with detailed knowledge of the situation, claims that negotiations have been held to ensure Houthi rebels permit vessels from certain carriers to navigate the waters safely, in exchange, these shipping lines must assure that their cargoes do not include Israeli goods or involve docking at Israeli ports. ShippingWatch did not mention which carriers are involved.

In response to the article, Germany’s Hapag Lloyd and Denmark’s Maersk assured investors they are not talking with the Houthis.

gCaptain has extended an inquiry to the US military and Federal Maritime Commission to gain deeper insights into the situation and will keep our readers informed with updates as soon as fresh information becomes available.

UPDATE: US Central Command responded to our media inquiry as follows:  “We would refer you to the ship owners to comment on their own activities.”

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