Maersk extends suspension of Red Sea passage
Shipping giant Maersk said on Tuesday it would not resume passage through a key Red Sea strait "until further notice," after Yemeni rebels attacked one of its merchant ships.
"We have decided to pause all transits through the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden until further notice," Maersk said in a statement.
"In cases where it makes most sense for our customers, vessels will be rerouted and continue their journey around the Cape of Good Hope," the company added.
On Sunday, the Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned and operated container vessel en route from Singapore to Port Suez in Egypt, reported being struck by a missile while transiting the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
It was then attacked by four ships operated by Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels, which "engaged fire in an expected attempt to board the vessel", the Danish shipping company said.
The US military said navy helicopters sank three of the ships while the fourth fled.
Following the incident on Sunday, Maersk announced it was immediate halting use of the route until January 2.
With 12 percent of world trade passing through it, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the Red Sea is a "crucial waterway" linking the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and hence Europe to Asia.
Some 20,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal every year, the gateway for ships entering and leaving the zone.
This is the second time that Maersk has suspended shipping through the strait.
In mid-December, like other global shipping giants, the Danish company halted passage of its ships through the route, following attacks by the Huthi rebels in Yemen.
It announced it would resume shipping on 24 December, only to suspend traffic again on December 31, one week later.
The Huthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane.
They say the strikes are in solidarity with Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza, which Israel has bombarded relentlessly for three months, in what it says is a campaign to destroy militant group Hamas.