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Red Sea update: Bab el Mandeb strait passings drop further as carriers reroute

More Data Storytelling

Key data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence for the week ending February 4, 2024

Numbers reflect cargo-carrying vessels of 10,000dwt+. Pre-Houthi attack average taken for the period November 6 - December 3, 2023.

  • Vessels passing through the Bab el Mandeb strait fell 11% week on week and are down by around 57% compared with the 4-week average prior to Houthi attacks. The most significant drops in terms of vessels types were for bulk carriers and crude oil tankers
  • Suez Canal passings are down 10% week on week, 54% below the average and 51% lower compared with the same period last year
  • For the Cape of Good Hope, transits are up 7% compared with the prior week and 65% year on year

There were 235 passings trough the Bab el Mandeb strait in the week ending February 4 (including transits where vessels had their Automatic Identification System switched off). This is down 11% from 263 the week before and an average of 542 passings in the period prior to the Houthi attacks, a drop of about 57%. The numbers will be revised slightly upwards next week as more dark transit data becomes available.

The most significant falls by vessel type were for bulk carriers, down 18% week on week, and for crude oil tankers by almost 40%.



A similar drop was seen in transits of the Suez Canal where overall traffic was 10% down week on week at 218 vessels, with product tanker transits down 39% to 28 in total from 46.

Transits around the Cape of Good Hope grew by a further 7% to 628 in the week ending February 4, up from 588 in the previous seven days and 65% higher than the 381 recorded in week 5 of 2023. 

The average daily number of active vessels in the Red Sea last week was 212, down from about 229 the week prior and from 373 last year. 


Top carriers all exit Red Sea route

Meanwhile, CMA CGM has confirmed that it will be avoiding the Bab el Mandeb passage to the Red Sea.

Rival carriers had already stopped transiting the high risk area since the turn of the year and the French company’s exit means that none of the world’s top 10 carriers remain active in the region.

Why the carrier was prepared to put its crews, vessels and cargoes at risk by taking the shorter route remains unclear. The only apparent difference between it and the rest was that it could call upon the French navy to act as an escort during transits.

At least three vessels operated by CMA CGM have rerouted in the middle of Red Sea transits and will now take the long route around the Cape of Good Hope to reach destinations in Asia.

Vessel tracking data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows several vessels that had shown final destinations in Asia are returning towards the Suez Canal rather than continuing south through the Red Sea.

These include its flagship 23,000 teu CMA CGM Jacques Saadé, which was last reported drifting southwest of Jeddah last week.

The exit of major carriers from the route has coincided with the emergence of a Chinese start-up, Sea Legend, which is picking up Red Sea trades supported by Chinese naval escorts. A Lloyd’s List investigation has found that the Qingdao-based shipping company is part of a much wider fleet network engaged in China-Russia trade.

Lloyd’s List subscribers can access our latest insight and data charts via the Red Sea Risk hub. 

For more information on how Lloyd’s List Intelligence can help you navigate the Red Sea disruption and changing trade lanes, request a callback here.