In response to escalating Huthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea, Japan’s three major shipping companies—Nippon Yusen (NYK Line), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines—have made the strategic decision to suspend their routes through this vital waterway. This move is part of a broader effort to prioritize the safety of their crews in the wake of recent hostilities.
The decision comes in the wake of a series of attacks on vessels by Huthi rebels, who claim to be targeting Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Gaza. The situation has not only heightened concerns about the Israel-Hamas conflict spreading across the region but has also disrupted global trade, impacting one of the world’s key maritime commercial routes.
With US and British forces responding to these attacks by bombing Huthi-controlled targets in Yemen, tensions in the region are at an all-time high. The waterway connecting Asian and European markets typically handles around 12 percent of global maritime trade. The suspension of Red Sea routes by Japanese shipping giants is expected to have ripple effects on global trade, given that diverting around the southern tip of Africa is both time-consuming and costlier.
A spokesperson for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines mentioned, “Vessels which were about to enter the Red Sea soon are advised to stay away from entering the Gulf of Aden south of the Red Sea.” Similarly, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha’s spokesman, Goro Kitamura, stated that the company had suspended navigation into the Red Sea since Friday.
The move is not unprecedented, as last month, Ocean Network Express—a container shipping business jointly owned by the three Japanese firms—already declared its intention to avoid the area. This strategic redirection aims to safeguard their assets and ensure the security of their operations in the region.
In November, Huthi rebels claimed the seizure of a ship owned by an Israeli businessman, rerouting it to Yemen’s coast.
The vessel, operated by Nippon Yusen, prompted the establishment of a task team to gather information and ensure the safety of the 25-strong crew. As of the latest update, Nippon Yusen has not received any fresh information about the seized ship, leaving them concerned about the fate of both the vessel and its crew. The situation remains fluid, and the shipping companies are closely monitoring developments in the region.