As shipping companies are forced to avoid Red Sea, Flemish company could provide solution

Following attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels, 18 logistics companies have decided to avoid the route, which could lead to higher prices and supply shortages. A rail link between China and Europe, funded by the Flemish company H.Essers, could provide a solution.

Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea. This is one of the world's most important shipping lanes, through which almost 15 per cent of the world's overseas trade passes.

The attacks have prompted a "significant number of companies" to avoid the route, which could lead to severe delays and shortages of supplies, according to Arsenio Dominguez, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization.

These companies will now sail via South Africa "to reduce attacks on ships and, of course, the impact on those on board". One example is the Danish shipping company Maersk. On Saturday, one of its ships was besieged and an attack was narrowly averted.

China-Europe rail link

A temporary solution could be provided by the Flemish logistics company H.Essers, which transports raw materials for chemicals and medicines. It invested in a rail link between China and Europe in the last decade, and many other shipping companies are now expressing interest in the route, which runs from Duisburg, Germany, to Chongqing, China.

"China has invested heavily in this railway over the past decade. President Xi Jinping has no doubt made it clear to Russia that they should not touch it"

While the railway runs through Russia, safety should not pose a problem, the company told Het Belang van Limburg. "China has invested heavily in this railway over the past decade. President Xi Jinping has no doubt made it clear to Russia that they should not touch it."

Until the attacks stop, delays and price increases are likely. On Wednesday, 12 countries, including Belgium, condemned the Houthi attacks as "illegal, unacceptable and highly destabilising". They say the attacks threaten innocent lives and are a major international concern that requires collective action.

Their statement also calls on the Houthis to release captured crew members and return captured vessels, adding that there will be consequences if they do not. The joint call for an end to the attacks was signed by the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.


#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO AXEL HEIMKEN / AFP

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