Middle East tensions rise, causing potential seafood supply-chain bottlenecks

MSC Aries vessel
MSC Aries vessel I Photo courtesy of Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock
4 Min

Tensions in the Middle East continue to rise, leaving the global shipping sector in a state of uncertainty. 

On 13 April, Iran seized control of a Portuguese-flagged container vessel, the MSC Aries, for “violating maritime laws,” according to a statement from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. The ship is partially owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, Reuters reported.

The seizure amplified concerns regarding security of vital trade routes and the stability of regional maritime hubs, according to shipping logistics firm Container xChange.

“We anticipate that freight rates may rise in response to the increased tension and uncertainty,” Container xChange CEO Christian Roeloffs said in a release

This seizure of the vessel by Iran’s RevolutionaryGguards is believed to be a retaliatory action against Israel, following a missile strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria that killed several Iranian military officers.

The Suez Canal is a vital point of transit for seafood shipments between Asia, Africa, and Europe. Disruption to maritime operations in and around the canal could result in significant delays, increased costs, and supply-chain bottlenecks, according to Roeloffs.

“Regardless of immediate outcomes, we anticipate heightened uncertainty in shipping markets. This comes at a time when tensions have already been simmering since the end of November, particularly in the Bab-al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea. Now the Strait of Hormuz emerges as a new focal point, with significant implications for Dubai, specifically Jebel Ali, a core transhipment hub in the region,” Roeloffs said. 

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