SAMSA monitoring as vessel volume around Cape of Good Hope amid anti-Israel attacks

A number of cargo vessels and others have rerouted from the Red Sea and travelling through the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope in an effort to evade potential attacks. File Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

A number of cargo vessels and others have rerouted from the Red Sea and travelling through the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope in an effort to evade potential attacks. File Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 4, 2024

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Cape Town - The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said it had noted a “negligible increase” in the number of vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, however this could be attributed to normal trade factors.

This as a number of cargo vessels and others have rerouted from the Red Sea and travelling through the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope in an effort to evade potential attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis.

As a response to Israel’s deadly and unceasing military bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, Houthis have attacked a number of commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea with drones and missiles in a show of solidarity with Palestinians. It said it would be targeting vessels linked to or en-route to Israel or occupied Palestine, with the attacks also calling for humanitarian aid to urgently enter Gaza.

“We have not noticed an influx. Samsa, together with other stakeholders, will continue to monitor the situation,” said Samsa.

Samsa said the Red Sea was a crucial waterway linking the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean and Europe and Asia. The seafaring cargo must now take a much longer route, adding several more days to the transit.

“South Africa’s waterways have always been a safe route for vessels passing our shores. Our ports are always ready and able to assist any vessel that calls, on a first-come, first-served basis.”

SA BDS coalition member Usuf Chikte said they were engaging with trade unions such as the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) to ensure Israeli boats were blocked to “curb and curtail their industrial-scale slaughter of Palestinians”.

“The genocidal pariah state of Israel needs to be isolated and boycotted.

The role the Houthis are playing in the Red Sea puts the brakes on Israel's genocidal campaign in Palestine.”

On Tuesday, the US Central Command Centre (Centcom) said at around 9.30pm (Sanaa time), Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen into the southern Red Sea.

“Multiple commercial ships in the area reported the impact of the ASBMs into the surrounding water, though none have reported any damage. These illegal actions endangered the lives of dozens of innocent mariners and continue to disrupt the free flow of international commerce.”

Centcom said the attack was the 24th against merchant shipping in the southern Red Sea since November 19.

On December 31, at around 6.30pm (Sanaa time) container ship Maersk Hangzhou issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours after it had come under attack by four Houthi small boats.

The container ship crew were fired at by the Houthis, who were within 20 metres of the vessel and attempted to board it. A security team on the ship returned fire.

US helicopters responded to the distress call and an exchange of fire ensued, sinking three of the four small Houthi boats and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area.

Following the incident, Maersk – the second-largest shipping company globally – said it would be pausing all transits through the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden until further notice and where it would make most sense, vessels would be rerouted and continue their journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

On December 18, the US announced the launch of “Operation Prosperity Guardian”, a 10-nation multinational security initiative involving Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Seychelles, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Seychelles and Spain in response to the attacks.

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