In a strategic move against threats from Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement, major Israeli shipping company, Zim, has altered its maritime routes. This decision, fueled by the Houthi group's declaration that vessels associated with Israel are legitimate targets amid the ongoing Gaza conflict, has led to a significant impact on Zim's operations, including longer transit times.
Playing It Safe
In a bid to safeguard its crews, vessels, and customers' cargo, Zim is now steering clear of the Arabian Sea and Red Sea. This change in course was most notably observed with the Zim Europe container ship. Initially, bound from Boston to Port Klang, Malaysia, the ship chose a longer route around Africa, bypassing the Suez Canal and Yemen. This detour signifies a 56% increase in travel time, exemplifying the substantial operational implications of the threats.
The reverberations of these developments extend beyond mere logistical changes. As Israeli shipping companies reroute their cargo ships in response to the escalating threats, transportation costs are on the rise. There are growing concerns that Israel's import and export sector could suffer significant losses, potentially losing major markets, and the cargo aboard detained ships. Data from Freightos, an Israeli shipping tracking company, indicates a 9 - 14 percent surge in shipping costs from China to the Israeli port of Ashdod in the latter half of October.
A Broader Perspective
The Houthi rebels' targeting of vessels associated with Israel has significant global implications. Beyond disrupting the Middle Eastern power balance, these actions pose a formidable challenge to international shipping lanes, vital for global trade. The Houthis' escalating attacks on vessels linked to Israel not only challenge Israel but also confront the international community and the unspoken agreement of safe passage on the high seas. These threats have led to incidents like the recent seizure of the Galaxy Leader, a vessel linked to an Israeli businessman, by Yemeni forces on November 19.