Global businesses, uncertain how long the shipping crisis in the Red Sea will last and with a looming shortage of vessels for the export rush before China’s New Year celebration, are scrambling to shift some ocean cargo to airlines, according to logistics specialists.
Major container lines have rerouted vessels around the Horn of Africa or docked them in safe locations to avoid the threat of drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Houthis say they are targeting vessels with links to Israel in support of Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip. Thirty percent of container volumes transit the Red Sea and Suez Canal shortcut between Europe and Asia.
The strikes on commercial shipping come as drought conditions force the Panama Canal, another trade chokepoint, to limit transits because of insufficient water to operate massive locks. Some vessel operators recently shifted services to the Suez route to avoid Panama transit delays and now are in a double bind.
With no end in sight to the Gaza war and tensions rising, air cargo providers could see a surge in business following a prolonged market downturn that only lifted in recent months behind rising e-commerce exports from China for the holidays.