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Red Sea rerouting hits east Mediterranean transhipment hubs

Terminals in the eastern Mediterranean have seen fewer vessel calls since the Red Sea crisis began

The closure of the Red Sea route to the Mediterranean has seen larger vessels skip the region; this in turn has sent transhipped volumes elsewhere

CONTAINERSHIP calls to eastern Mediterranean ports have fallen sharply since the start of the Red Sea crisis, as carriers redesign their networks to take account of the longer routing around the Cape of Good Hope.

Figures from Lloyd’s List Intelligence show vessel calls at the key transhipment hubs in Piraeus, Marsaxlokk and Gioia Tauro have all seen a decline in vessel calls since the beginning of diversions.

Comparing numbers from October, before the Houthi attacks on shipping forced the partial closure of the Red Sea, to February, by which time nearly all carriers were avoiding the Bab el Mandeb transit, shows a sharp fall in the number of main lane ships calling at the ports.

In some — but not all — cases, these have been made up for with the addition of smaller vessels, indicating cargoes are being feedered in from hubs further west or from vessels calling at Northern European ports.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence data shows Marsaxlokk and Gioia Tauro vessel calls were down by almost one-fifth during the period, while the number of vessels calling Piraeus was down 8%.



Mainline services destined for the eastern Med are usually direct and do not extend further west. However, the closure of the Suez routing meant these vessels had to add another 15 days to their voyage to round Africa, then transit the Mediterranean.

A more efficient use of resources would be to place cargoes destined for these ports on larger vessels calling at western Med transhipment hubs, such as Morocco’s Tanger Med or Spain’s Algeciras, or put them on vessels destined for Northern Europe and tranship from there.

“There are far fewer large container vessels present in the Mediterranean, particularly towards the eastern Mediterranean,” said Drewry ports and terminals analyst Eleanor Hadland.

“The Red Sea crisis is an ongoing an evolving situation, but carriers are adjusting their schedules to a new normal, which is shifting the focus of transhipment further west in the Mediterranean.”

That appears to have been the case for many carriers, although not all. Cosco, for example, is still sending large vessels the whole way around, with its 20,000 teu Cosco Shipping Aries (IMO: 9783497) recently calling at Piraeus after routing around Africa.

Nevertheless, Piraeus has been one of the most hard-hit ports. Ocean Alliance partners Cosco and Evergreen have had to bring on extra loaders to help evacuate empties and to shuttle cargoes, according to Linerlytica.

In volume terms, throughput at Piraeus fell 12.7% year on year, and by a quarter month on month in January, according to Drewry.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel-tracking data indicates western Mediterranean hubs, including Tanger Med and Algeciras, have been far more insulated from the impact of rerouting.

Calls by vessels of more than 18,000 teu are down at both ports, but neo-panamax vessel calls have increased.

However, the increase in transhipment has led to fears of disruptions around the Strait of Gibraltar as vessels change rotations.

“The increased number of vessels calling at Valencia and Barcelona, as well as bunching of ship arrivals, has resulted in berthing delays of two to three days,” said Linerlytica.

“The hub ports in the western Mediterranean, including Algeciras and Tanger Med, have also seen more vessel calls as relay ports for cargo to the rest of the Mediterranean and upper Red Sea areas.

“This situation is expected to continue, with Red Sea diversions remaining at close to 5m teu.”



Drewry’s Hadland said there was little sign of congestion from the increased transhipment in the western Mediterranean, however.

“Tanger Med is usually one of the least-congested ports and has a just-in-time arrival system that schedules calls for environmental and efficiency reasons,” she said.

“Average waiting time is usually zero days. There are no signs yet in the other major west Mediterranean hubs of growing levels of congestion.”

Nevertheless, HMM has warned customers that the TC3 terminal is “heavily congested”.

“Main liner vessels can wait up to four days due to adverse weather condition mainly and berth congestion caused by late arrivals from Northern Europe of vessels that came around the Cape of Good Hope,” it said.

“Feeder vessel need to wait more than seven days to berth.”

Zim has also dropped a call at Tanger Med on its transatlantic ZCT service to the eastern Mediterranean and replaced it with a call at Damietta instead, “until congestion conditions improve”.


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