Chinese and Russian vessels at risk in Red Sea

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China and Russia, which might’ve thought their merchant fleets were safe sailing through the Red Sea, got a reminder over the weekend that there are no such guarantees in the fog of economic warfare, Bloomberg reports.

After Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that the Yemen-based group backed by Iran told Beijing and Moscow their ships wouldn’t be targeted with missile and drone attacks, the Houthis fired a missile at a Chinese-owned oil tanker called M/V Huang Pu on Saturday, causing a minor fire and no injuries, according to the US.

Oft-quoted shipping analyst Lars Jensen, the founder of Vespucci Maritime, speculated that it might’ve been a case of mistaken identity based on poor research.

“It would for now appear that Houthis have acted on outdated information and in the process clearly demonstrated that even if there was potentially a deal to grant safe passage, such a deal is not to be trusted,” Jensen wrote.

The episode is a reminder of how geopolitical fissures — like those stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine or US-China trade tensions — are spilling over into the global economy. Adding to the murkiness is a lack of transparency in the shipping industry that sometimes clouds the paper trail of ownership.

Read More: How an Aging Armada and Mystery Traders Keep Russian Oil Afloat

While Russian and Chinese shipping carriers are still regularly plying the Red Sea to use the Suez Canal shortcut between Asia and Europe, western carriers still consider the route too dangerous and are taking longer and costlier detours.

On Friday, Maersk said the risks of transiting the Red Sea remain too high for its crews and vessels.

“Regretfully, both our internal analysis, as well as insight we received from external sources, still indicates that the risk level in the region remains elevated,” the Copenhagen-based company said in a web posting. “Sailing via the Cape of Good Hope and around Africa is the most reasonable solution at the moment and the one that currently allows the best supply chain stability.”

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