Ships keep running Red Sea gauntlet even after US warnings

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Huge numbers of merchant ships have continued to navigate the southern Red Sea since warnings by western navies to stay away from the crucial trade route to avoid attack by Houthi militants.

On Friday, the Combined Maritime Forces — encompassing both UK and US navies — advised merchant ships to stay away from the danger zone. Their advice came after both nations bombed targets in Yemen to try to quell attacks on commercial vessels by Houthi militants, prompting concern about reprisals.

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Numerous vessels turned away following the advice. The number passing through the Bab el-Mandeb since Friday has fallen by more than half compared with the corresponding period a month earlier, ship-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg show.

However, 114 vessels — including oil tankers, bulk carriers and container ships — still passed into or out of the Red Sea through the narrow chokepoint, the data show.

The latest count compares with 131 during the same period a week earlier, when tensions in the region were already high and vessels were being targeted by Houthi missiles and drones.

However, it’s down from 272 ships in the same period a month ago and 252 during the same timespan six months earlier.

The fact that so many have gone through is a reminder that differ-ent shipowners have different risk tolerances, and that some may assess they can get their vessels through safely.

While the number of shipments are sharply down, the number transporting oil from Russia has dropped by significantly less. Many vessels have also advertised connections to China in the hope of sailing through safely. Others also pointed out that they weren’t involved in trade with Israel.

Biggest drop

Gas carriers have seen the biggest drop, with the number of ships down by 96 percent from a month ago.

They’re followed by container ships and vessels that don’t fall into any of the other categories with both down by about 80 percent. Oil tankers passing through the area has fallen by about 55 percent from a month ago.Bulk carriers have been least affected, down by 25 percent from a month earlier.More than 20 ships are idling to the east of the Gulf of Aden, several of them u-turned after the Combined Maritime Forces issued their warning.

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