An Already Bad Situation in the Red Sea Just Got Worse

The seizure of a container ship by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday threatens trade lanes in the Middle East and Red Sea

The Red Sea is a sea inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. Its connection to the ocean is in the south, through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. To its north lie the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal).

Story by Andreas Exarheas| | The seizure of a container ship by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday is extremely concerning and threatens to put trade lanes in the Middle East at risk, Xeneta said in a release sent to Rigzone.

“It has been reported that the MSC Aries was seized by Iran Revolutionary Guards 50 nautical miles (92km) northeast of Fujairah, an area close to the Strait of Hormuz that forms the entrance to the Arabian Gulf,” Xeneta, which describes itself as the leading ocean freight rate benchmarking and intelligence platform, stated in the release.

The seizure of a container ship by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday threatens trade lanes in the Middle East and Red Sea“The latest incident follows ongoing conflict in the Red Sea region – the gateway to the Suez Canal – which has seen ocean freight container ships avoiding the area due to missile attacks by Houthi militia,” it added.

Peter Sand, a Chief Analyst at Xeneta, said in the release, “An already bad situation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has just got worse and could put ocean freight container imports and oil exports in the Middle East at risk”.

“We don’t yet know the full details of the incident in the Strait of Hormuz, but any widening of the conflict, which has already resulted in huge disruption to ocean freight services in the Red Sea region, would be extremely concerning,” he added.

“For example, Dubai is a regional hub for imports as well as sea-air corridors, with containers arriving by ocean via the Strait of Hormuz for onward travel by air to Europe and North America. If ships are impacted from sailing into the Arabian Gulf then the disruption would be considerable,” he continued.

A statement posted on the official X account of the White House National Security Council Spokesperson said, “we strongly condemn the Iranian seizure of the Portuguese flagged, British-owned MSC Aries in international waters”.

“The crew is comprised of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian, and Estonian nationals. We call on Iran to release the vessel and its international crew immediately,” it added.

“Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” it continued.

“It must be condemned unequivocally and we will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” it went on to note.

In a statement posted on his X page, the UK Secretary of State for Defense, Grant Shapps, said, “The seizure of the cargo ship MSC Aries by Iran is unacceptable and a blatant violation of international law”.

“We call for the unconditional release of the ship and its crew without delay. We are working with partners to prevent escalation in the Middle East. Iran must cease their destabilizing behavior immediately,” he added.

In a statement posted on its website focusing on the Aries vessel, the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Portuguese authorities are monitoring the situation, under direct coordination of the Prime Minister’s office, involving the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Presidency, National Defense, and Economy.

“There is no record of Portuguese citizens on board, whether crew or command,” the ministry said.

“The Portuguese Government is in contact with the Iranian authorities, having requested clarifications and requested additional information,” it added.

In the statement, the ministry highlighted that the owner of the vessel is Zodiac Maritime Limited, based in London.

When Rigzone asked Zodiac Maritime Limited for comment on the Aries ship being seized, the company noted that it is the manager and commercial operator of the vessel.

“MSC is responsible for all vessel activities including cargo operations and maintenance. The title to the vessel is held by Gortal Shipping Inc as a financier and she has been leased to MSC on a long-term basis. Gortal Shipping Inc. is affiliated with Zodiac Maritime,” the company added.

“MSC is also responsible for the vessel’s itinerary, schedule, and crew onboard and any queries about the vessel should be directed to MSC,” it continued.

In a maritime security threat advisory (MSTA) released last month, Dryad Global noted that the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea had “seen another watershed incident”.

“Recently the Bermuda-flagged MV True Confidence was struck on its port side by an anti-ship missile. The attack led to significant damage and sadly the loss of three lives,” Dryad said in the MSTA.

“Indian Navy conducted a rescue of the remainder of the crew. The loss of life as a result of Houthi activity represents a further significant change to the dynamic within the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea,” the company added.

“It is likely that such activity will be met by increased diplomatic pressure on Houthis as well as a significant increase in the potential for further strikes,” it continued.

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