Japanese shipping companies avoid Red Sea and US puts Houthi militia back on terror list

Major Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen (NYK Line) has joined the list of companies that have opted to stop transport via the Red Sea due to ongoing attacks by the Houthi militia. NYK Line confirmed this on Wednesday in a decision taken to "ensure the safety of crew members", a spokesperson said.

According to the Nikkei newspaper, the two other major Japanese shipping companies, Mitsui OSK Lines and Kawasaki Kisen, have also decided to avoid the Red Sea.

Prominent oil companies BP, Shell and QatarEnergy and shipping companies MSC, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM have already decided to stop sailing through the Red Sea until further notice. The alternative route via the Cape of Good Hope significantly lengthens the journey for ships, bringing the threat of increased product costs.

Back on terror list

Meanwhile, the US intends to relist the Houthi militia as a global terrorist group. When classifying terrorists, the US distinguishes between terrorists who operate worldwide and foreign terrorist organisations. The distinction plays a role in imposing sanctions. The Houthis would be on the first list.

In 2021, secretary of state Mike Pompeo classified the Houthis in both categories, but Antony Blinken later removed them from the list to assist humanitarian efforts in Yemen's civil war.

Ongoing attacks

Since November, Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and control large parts of Yemen, have been carrying out attacks on ships in the Red Sea as retaliation against Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip.

Tensions in the inland sea, through which some 12 per cent of world trade normally passes, have further increased after the US and British military carried out attacks on Houthi targets last week. A missile hit another US ship on Monday and a Greek ship on Tuesday.

In November, the Houthis seized the cargo ship Galaxy Leader and detained its 25 crew members. Nippon Yusen operated the ship for a British company owned by Israeli entrepreneurs.


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