Footage published by the Houthis from the takeover of the Galaxy Leader ship/documentation on social networks under Section 27A of the Copyright Law
Yemen's Houthi army spokesman Yahya Saria dropped a media bombshell yesterday that shook the shipping industry: "If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships passing through the Red Sea on their way to Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become targets for our armed forces." This means that if earlier the Houthis attacked with gunfire and hijacked ships owned or leased by Israel in some feeble Israeli way, now anyone who transports goods to Israel is a threatened maritime target.
Beyond the security and international aspects of keeping shipping lanes open, the significance of this militant declaration is the increase in the cost of transporting goods from the Far East to Israel, which pass through the Red Sea, and an expected increase in their prices – foodstuffs, fashion, electrical appliances, cars and furniture.
If anyone has déjà vu during the coronavirus period, which was full of delays and price increases, it's no coincidence. Sources in the shipping and import markets warn that we are facing a very sensitive period, even if the impact on prices is more moderate.
Gunmen watch the Galaxy Leader ship seized by the Houthis off the coast of Yemen, Dec. 5, 2023/Reuters
"This is a great drama," says Yoram Zeba, president of the Israel Shipping Bureau, "because there has never been such a threat to Israeli goods, and if it materializes, it could have repercussions not only here, but in other countries around the world. Until now, the Houthis have declared that they only attack Israeli owners, such as the Ofer brothers or Rami Ungar, but when they threaten companies like ZIM and MSC, the significance is enormous.
"There are at least five container ships that come here once a week, and they sail not only to Israel, but also to Italy and Spain, and if there is no trade there, then it will definitely be a drama. Since morning, I've received calls from three container lines to ask what to do. Right now, American security officials, people from NATO and our people are sitting down to see how to solve this. All assuming that the Houthis do carry out the threat. I don't see how they will be able to completely paralyze the movement of ships, at most they will be able to do so partially."
International companies will give up transporting goods to Israel, why should they get in trouble?
"Why would the French want to get involved with the Houthis? On the other hand, Israel is a very developed trading country, and to reach the Mediterranean and not drop off goods in Israel is a huge damage. It is true that it is possible to take a detour through Africa, as ZIM announced, but each such voyage takes another three weeks and its cost will increase by half a million to a million dollars. In addition, ships will have to be added to reach a frequency of once a week."
In any case, the Houthi threat will affect us, the consumers.
"Trade from the Far East today accounts for between 26% and 32% of all trade to Israel. It is not critical if we only have two TVs and not three. But if food imports are affected, it will already be critical."
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Zeba. "Since this morning, I have already received calls from three container lines to consult on what to do"/Doron Golan
Erez Wiener, CEO of Willifood, which imports food from the Far East, is beginning to prepare for the implications of the Houthi threat. "The shipping companies sent us a notice that some routes from the east would change the route, adding three weeks to the sailing dates," he says. "At the moment the critical impact is in arrival times and not in price, it will come at a later stage. We are preparing to bring forward future orders, so that they will arrive on time."
And what about the expected price increases, will we reach the crazy shipping levels of the coronavirus?
"Before COVID-2, we paid $400,14 for a container, while during COVID-4 the price also reached $500,30 per container. Since then, the price has dropped to $<>,<> per container. If the Houthi threat materializes, a price increase of about <>% is expected, depending on the duration of the voyage."
And how much will the consumer pay?
"I still can't say that we still don't have a full picture of the effects of the war and the rise in the exchange rate. But I can say that our upcoming reports are not happy. Sales are good, but when you buy expensive and don't pass it on to the customer, there are consequences."
Do you foresee shortages of some food products?
"No shortage, but a delay in the products we bring such as tuna, palm hearts and the chef's dish, which come from the Far East, will be. I hope not severe, but if this crisis does not end at an international consul, in the medium term the consumer will also feel it in their pockets."
Wiener. "Right now the critical impact is in arrival times and not in price, it will come at a later stage"/Elad Gutman
What should not increase is the general cargo, wheat, corn, soybeans and other grains, as well as cement and iron. "The vast majority of raw materials come from the Black Sea region," says Yoni Isakov, CEO of Coral Marine Services and a member of the Shipping Bureau's committee. "There are cargoes that come from China, but their volume is relatively low.
"ZIM, which transports containers, continues to sail through Africa and what happened in the air will also happen at sea. The foreign companies stopped flying here, and the Israeli companies took their place fully, because the demand was not great. ZIM will become the god of the sea. We live day by day now. From past experience, there seems to be no shortage here, because cargo finds a way to get here, even if it is late."
- More on the subject:
- Iron Sword War
- Gaza War