Attacks on the Red Sea, how does this impact global shipping

Table of content

red sea attacks and impacts

Since October 2023, the Red Sea has seen a rise in attacks on commercial vessels by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. These attacks believed to be a response to the ongoing war in Gaza, target ships with missiles and drones. While the exact number of attacks is debated, reports suggest over 60 incidents have occurred, causing damage to at least 20 ships and sinking one. Discover how attacks in the Red Sea disrupt global shipping in this article.

How are the assaults on ships in the Red Sea disrupting global trade?

Carrying maritime traffic between connecting Asia and Europe, the Red Sea plays a crucial role in the global supply chain. The Suez Canal, acting as a shortcut for the Red Sea, facilitates around 10% and 15% of global trade volume, and an impressive 30% of the world’s containerized cargo. This vital waterway handles over $1 trillion worth of goods annually. Imagine – 50 ships carrying this immense value traverse it daily, totaling nearly 19,000 vessels a year.

Following the outbreak of war in Gaza last November, Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a critical 20-mile channel separating Africa from Yemen. These strikes, targeting vessels the group claims they are connected to Israel, have transformed one of the world’s busiest shipping routes into a highly dangerous zone.

To avoid the area, commercial vessels are forced to take longer routes, increasing travel time and costs. This raises concerns about the smooth flow and security of maritime commerce. These geopolitical issues jeopardize global trade in several ways.

Disrupted routes and increased shipping costs

The Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest waterways. However, to avoid assaults in the Red Sea, shipping companies are forced to giant container reroute vessels around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, adding approximately 3,500 nautical miles (around 6,482 kilometers) and up to 14 days to the sailing times. Diverting these massive vessels, some exceeding 300 meters, presents a logistical nightmare, causing new delays.

This lengthy detour translates into increased costs. Estimates suggest the extra fuel costs could reach $1 million per trip. But they also have to consider crew wages and benefits, as well as maintenance and repairs. Maintaining the highest standards for maritime safety for seafarers, vessels, and the environment also creates financial charges for shipping firms. Plus, depending on the chosen alternative route, the ship might need to call at additional ports, resulting in increased port fees, including dockage fees, harbor fees, and other charges associated with using port facilities.

Furthermore, the risk of piracy or attacks on the Red Sea prompts insurance companies to raise premiums for ships traveling through the region, even if many firms have taken exceptional security measures. The immense value of the cargo of these vessels (millions to hundreds of millions of dollars) necessitates that insurers take steps to mitigate potential legal problems in case of damage or loss. This aspect adds to the overall cost burden for shipping lines and is potentially passed on to freight rates, which ultimately drive up the final price of products for consumers.

new shipping route due to red sea attacks

Economic impacts

Escalating tensions in the Red Sea and resulting delays worsen pre-existing supply chain problems across various sectors, which were already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some shipping lines have even stopped operating in the Red Sea entirely.

This reduces the overall number of ships available for global trade, which collides with the ever-increasing demand fueled by e-commerce growth. The massive capacity of cargo ships far exceeds that of rail and air freight. This vast difference makes it impossible to shift cargo to these alternative transportation methods completely. This potentially causes congestion in other important routes and leads to shortages of goods by weeks or even longer, as well as price increases.

Data from Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy paints a concerning picture. In December 2023, container traffic through the Red Sea plummeted by over 50% compared to usual levels, and the situation remains critical with current levels still 70% below normal. This translates to a chilling effect on global trade, with a 1.3% decline from November to December 2023 (adjusted for prices and seasonality). The European Union bore the brunt of this impact, with exports and imports falling by 2.0% and 3.1% respectively. Even the United States, which relies less heavily on the Red Sea compared to Europe, experienced a decrease in December trade, with exports and imports down 1.5% and 1.0% respectively.

Additionally, countries bordering the Red Sea, such as Egypt with the Suez Canal, experience a decline in revenue due to fewer ships using the waterway. These attacks highlight the fragility of global trade and the ripple effect disruptions can have on economies worldwide.

Threats on shipping industry’s sustainability efforts

In recent years, the transportation industry, particularly maritime shipping, has made significant strides in reducing its environmental footprint. These efforts include route optimization, reduced vessel speeds, deployment of energy-efficient technologies, and adoption of alternative fuels like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and even hydrogen.

However, the rerouting of ships due to attacks in the Red Sea increases fuel consumption, leading to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, knowing that cargo ships emit approximately 10-40 grams of CO₂ per kilometer. This rise could jeopardize the industry’s progress towards its pollution reduction goals. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) aims for a  40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to 2008 levels, and an ambitious 50% reduction by 2050.

Regulations are also tightening to drastically lower emissions of sulfur oxides and other pollutants that harm air quality and marine ecosystems.

How can container tracking software help address the challenges raised by Red Sea attacks?

Experts warned of a prolonged disruption in the Red Sea. They believe that the security problems are unlikely anytime soon and that the international community cannot guarantee safe passage yet. The development of alternative routes, such as using the Arctic passage due to melting ice caps, could lessen the Red Sea’s importance in the future, but this is still a developing option. As a consequence, these challenges may persist “for quite a few months”. 

In today’s environment of disruptions like Red Sea attacks, container tracking software is no longer optional – it’s essential. All stakeholders, from forwarders and port crew to beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) and shipping companies, can monitor their shipments throughout the journey. This technology empowers everyone in the maritime transport sector with real-time shipment visibility, leading to significant benefits:

  • Forwarders and port crews can anticipate arrivals and departures, optimizing operations and reducing delays.
  • BCOs are alerted to any anomalies, allowing them to make informed choices. For example, they can explore alternative delivery methods like sea air to meet deadlines.
  • Shipping companies gain valuable insights into vessel location and crew status, enabling them to prepare for potential rescues or reroute ships if necessary.


Sinay has recently expanded its ocean freight management suite with the acquisition of SafeCube, a comprehensive and powerful container tracking solution. This provides businesses with real-time visibility into their global shipments, offering features like location tracking, real-time alerts for any delays or disruptions, and condition monitoring. By leveraging Safecube, companies can improve logistics efficiency, and gain valuable insights into their cargo’s journey – all from a centralized user-friendly platform. In today’s dynamic shipping environment, Safecube offers peace of mind and informed decision-making in supply chain management for businesses of all sizes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Red Sea attacks and piracy

Red Sea attacks and piracy at sea are often fueled by a combination of factors including geopolitical instability, economic disparities, and insufficient maritime security measures.

These regions are characterized by strategic waterways, making them attractive targets for criminal activities such as armed robbery, hijackings, and ransom demands.

Vessels traversing the Red Sea can reduce the risk of piracy by implementing robust security measures such as maintaining a vigilant lookout, adhering to recommended transit corridors, and employing onboard security personnel or armed guards where necessary.

Additionally, cooperation with international naval forces and adherence to industry best practices, as outlined by organizations like the International Maritime Organization (IMO), can enhance the safety of maritime operations in these waters.

Various initiatives and collaborative efforts exist to address the threat of piracy in the Red Sea region.

These include the deployment of naval task forces by international coalitions which conduct counter-piracy patrols and provide assistance to merchant vessels in distress.

Additionally, regional cooperation frameworks and capacity-building programs aim to strengthen the maritime security capabilities of littoral states and promote information sharing among stakeholders to effectively combat piracy threats.

Focus on data to make effective decisions

Discover our modules

Choose one module to solve one specific pain point or combine several modules to monitor efficiently your environmental footprint.
Save time and money thanks to the key indicators.

Environmental Monitoring

Monitor air quality in real-time, be alerted when a threshold is reached & easily comply with regulation thanks to the automated reports.

Monitor water quality in real-time, predict and avoid water pollution & comply with regulations thanks to the automated reports.

Deliver a preliminary metocean analysis and the associated report in jut a few minutes.


Predict the best maritime route to optimize fleet rounds & fuel consumption.

You may also be interested by those others environment application :

Share This Post

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

You may also like: