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Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea had led to a drop in grain and oilseed shipments at the Suez Canal, with shipping companies forced to re-route around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to avoid the strikes, Anadolu news agency reported.

As vessels take the alternative route, tonnages at the Suez Canal had dropped 65%, the 19 January report said.

The Houthi attacks were “a significant disruption since the Suez Canal handles about 12% of global trade and around one-third of container shipping between Asia and Europe,” World Trade Organization (WTO) chief economist Ralph Ossa told the news agency.

Since last November, Houthis in Yemen have targeted merchant vessels in the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

In mid-January, the USA and the UK started joint strikes on military targets associated with Houthis.

Due to ships taking longer routes, freight rates had increased and deliveries were being delayed by more than a week, Anadolu wrote.

According to data compiled by Anadolu from maritime services provider Clarksons Research, the total tonnage of vessels arriving in the Gulf of Aden between 12-16 January dropped 65%, compared to the first half of December 2023.

According to WTO data, total grain and oilseeds volumes transiting via the Suez Canal dropped from 7.2M tonnes in November 2023 to 5.9M tonnes in December, with companies increasingly diverting to alternative routes.

This total was nearly one-fifth lower on an annual basis and 15% below the three-year average, the WTO added.

In the first half of January, grain and oilseeds volumes through the Red Sea were 0.9M tonnes lower, down threefold year-on-year and 63% compared to the three-year average for that period.

According to the German economic institute IfW Kiel, global trade slowed by 1.3% in December compared to the previous month.

The number of containers shipped in the Red Sea dropped by more than half in December from 500,000 containers/day in November to 200,000 containers/day.

Meanwhile, Aljazeera reported that Malaysia had banned all Israeli-flagged cargo ships from docking at its ports in what it said was a response to the war in Gaza, saying Israel had violated international law.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced the decision to impose the maritime ban on Israel-affiliated vessels on 20 December – singling out Israel’s largest shipping firm ZIM.

Ships on their way to Israel would also be barred from loading cargo at any port in the Southeast Asian nation with immediate effect, Anwar said in a statement.

Malaysia, where about 60% of the population is Muslim, does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel and advocates for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to the report.