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A Maersk containership is seen near Suez Canal Bridge which is known as the "Peace Bridge" in the Suez Canal, Egypt, August 6, 2023. Suez Canal Authority/Handout via REUTERS

A Maersk containership is seen near Suez Canal Bridge which is known as the "Peace Bridge" in the Suez Canal, Egypt, August 6, 2023. Suez Canal Authority/Handout via REUTERS

Maersk Starts Scheduling Suez Canal Transits as Hapag-Lloyd Steers Clear

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December 27, 2023

By Terje Solsvik

OSLO, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Denmark’s Maersk has scheduled several dozen container vessels to travel via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the coming days and weeks, it said on Wednesday, in a further sign that global shipping firms are returning to the route.

The world’s top shipping companies, including container giants Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, stopped using Red Sea routes after Yemen’s Houthi militant group began targeting vessels earlier this month, disrupting global trade.

Maersk’s share price fell 5% by 1330 GMT on Wednesday, partly reversing last week’s gains, as a return to the shorter routes through the Suez Canal from voyages around Africa might prompt a freight rates correction.

Other shipping stocks also fell, including Hapag-Lloyd which dropped 6%, oil tanker group Frontline which was down 5.3% and car shipping service Hoegh Autoliners which was 3% lower.

Maersk said on Dec. 24 it was preparing a return to the Red Sea for both eastbound and westbound journeys, citing the deployment of a U.S.-led military operation to protect vessels against Houthi attacks, but provided few details.

The schedule remains subject to change based on specific contingency plans that may be formed over the coming days, the company said on Wednesday.

France’s CMA CGM on Tuesday said it was increasing the number of vessels traveling through the Suez Canal.

Among the vessels listed in a Maersk advisory to clients on Wednesday was the Maren Maersk, which departed Tangiers on Dec. 24 and would “continue via Suez Canal” with an estimated time of arrival in Singapore on Jan. 14.

But many of its vessels are still scheduled to take the journey around Africa, the advisory showed.

Maersk has since Dec. 19 rerouted ships around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope to avoid attacks, chargingcustomers extra fees and adding weeks to the time it takes to transport goods from Asia to Europe and to the east coast of North America.

It announced on Dec. 22 that it would add charges of $700 for a standard 20-foot container traveling from China to Northern Europe, consisting of a $200 transit disruption surcharge and a $500 peak season surcharge.

The transit disruption charge was imposed last week with immediate effect while the peak season addition is valid from Jan. 1. It was not immediately clear how the decision to restart some Red Sea shipments would affect the surcharges.

The company declined to comment further when asked about its vessel schedules.

“At the moment, we cannot say anything more than what has been shared,” a Maersk spokesperson said in a statement.

German rival Hapag-Lloyd still considers the situation too dangerous to pass through the Suez Canal, a spokesperson for the company said on Wednesday, adding that it would continue to reroute its vessels via the Cape of Good Hope.

“We continuously assess the situation and plan a next review on Friday,” the spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Essi Lehto and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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