2023 Red Sea Channel Crisis

The 2023 Red Sea Channel crisis, which began in November, has become a significant international shipping incident. The Red Sea Waterway and the Suez Canal together form the “Eurasian Waterway,” one of the busiest in the world, with nearly 12% of global trade passing through. This “lifeline” for global supply chains has been disrupted by Houthi rebel attacks, significantly affecting international shipping.

Major shipping companies like Mediterranean Shipping Company, Dafei Shipping Group, Maersk Group, and Hapag-Lloyd have suspended navigation in the Red Sea, severely impacting the Asia-Europe supply chain. Rising freight costs and rates have contributed to inflation concerns. On January 3, 2024, twelve countries issued a joint statement condemning the Houthi attacks, highlighting the severe threat to global trade and stability.

Recent Developments

On March 9, Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched an attack on ships in the Gulf of Aden, further destabilizing the region. To avoid risks, many major shipping companies have rerouted via the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, extending travel times and significantly increasing transportation costs. As a result, various Asian ports have experienced varying degrees of congestion.

Escalation and Response

The crisis has led to ship hijackings and attacks, making shipping routes unsafe and further destabilizing the global economic supply chain. In response, the United States launched the “Red Sea Escort Alliance,” though this initiative faces challenges in coordination and effectiveness.

China, anticipating such disruptions, has leveraged its China-EU train routes as an alternative to affected maritime routes. These trains, despite being more expensive than sea freight, offer faster delivery times and have become increasingly popular amidst the crisis. The consultation volume for China-EU train services has doubled, underscoring their significance in maintaining supply chain stability.

Foreword on Houthi Control

For many years, the Houthis have controlled the northwestern coast of Yemen, using their control of the Red Sea as a strategic weapon. Following a new round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Houthis have frequently attacked merchant ships in the Red Sea that they “believed” were linked to Israel. As a result, several shipping companies have chosen to bypass the region, significantly increasing transportation costs. In response, the United States launched the “Red Sea Escort Alliance,” which has seen many countries join, escalating the situation further.

The Red Sea has become a complex battleground with various forces at play. Recent explosions and continuous Houthi threats have prompted significant rerouting of global shipping. The longer detours around the Cape of Good Hope have increased shipping times and costs, leading to higher commodity prices and risks to the global economy.

Impact on Indonesia

Chen Lin, a Jakarta-based exporter of Southeast Asian handicrafts and fashion to Europe, highlighted the impact of the Red Sea crisis on shipping routes. Initially adopting a wait-and-see approach, the escalation of regional conflicts and the Houthi attack on March 9 forced his company to reroute via the Cape of Good Hope, doubling transportation time and costs.

According to BBC News Indonesia, on May 17, Indonesia’s Minister of Economic Affairs reported significant cargo backlogs at major ports, including Jakarta and Surabaya, with thousands of containers stranded. This congestion is due to new regulations introduced by the Indonesian government in December, imposing import restrictions on 4,000 types of commodities, which require import licenses. Intended to boost domestic production, these regulations have led to widespread dissatisfaction due to the increased difficulty in importing goods. Consequently, cargo has stalled at ports awaiting import permit approvals.

In response, the Indonesian government announced it would ease import restrictions on seven product categories, including electronics, footwear, apparel, accessories, cosmetics, household goods, leather bags, and valve devices. This relaxation has allowed for the clearance of long-stranded goods.

Broader Implications

The congestion and delays at Indonesian ports have exacerbated global supply chain tensions, already strained by the Red Sea crisis. Although Indonesia’s import restrictions are an independent decision, their timing has amplified the impact on the global supply chain. The restrictions have led to increased costs and complications for businesses, especially those reliant on imported raw materials, causing production delays and financial strain.

The Red Sea crisis has triggered a domino effect, causing rerouted shipping lanes, increased transportation costs, and congestion at numerous Asian ports, including Singapore, Shanghai, Ningbo, and Port Klang. Ship turnaround times have extended by 3 to 6 days, putting immense pressure on cross-border e-commerce logistics. The extended voyages and increased costs have tested the efficiency of supply chains, leading to inventory shortages and delivery delays, ultimately affecting customer satisfaction and market stability.

China’s Strategic Response

An accident at Shanghai Port last month, where a container fell into the water, further complicated matters by blocking waterways and halting ships, leading to widespread delays. As a precaution, companies has explored alternative logistics solutions like air freight and local production partnerships to reduce reliance on imported raw materials.

Amidst the crisis, China’s preemptive strategies, such as leveraging the China-EU train routes, have provided a vital alternative to affected maritime routes. These trains offer faster delivery times compared to sea freight, despite higher costs, and have become increasingly popular as shipping through the Red Sea becomes riskier.

The China-EU trains pass through over 100 cities in 11 Asian countries and regions, reaching more than 200 cities in 25 European countries. This network has been instrumental in stabilizing the global supply chain, particularly in light of the current maritime disruptions. Reports indicate that the consultation volume for China-EU train services has nearly doubled since the onset of the Red Sea crisis, highlighting their growing importance.

Future Prospects

The Red Sea crisis has underscored the need for more resilient and diversified supply chain solutions. The China-EU train routes, which have gained prominence during this crisis, are likely to see continued growth and development. These trains not only offer a faster alternative to sea freight but also enhance the overall flexibility and robustness of global trade networks.

Stay tuned with Ocean Treasure for more products and news:

· LinkedIn: Ocean Treasure World Foods Limited: Overview | LinkedIn

· Facebook: Ocean Treasure | Facebook

· Instagram: Ocean Treasure | Instagram photos and videos