MAERSK has warned of “significant disruption to the global network” as it suspends all transits through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden following an attack on a Maersk ship.

The company paused vessels bound for the region after Houthi militants targeted the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou in the Red Sea on 31 December.

United States helicopters repelled the attack, sinking three vessels and killing 10 militants, according to reports from Maersk and Houthi officials, cited by Reuters.

“An investigation into the incident is ongoing and we will continue to pause all cargo movement through the area while we further assess the constantly evolving situation,” Maersk said in an update dated 2 January.

Maersk Hangzhou was among the first of Maersk’s vessels to transit the Red Sea after the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian last month. Maersk and other shipping companies had rerouted Red Sea traffic prior to the launch of the multinational security initiative.

On 5 January Maersk confirmed all Maersk vessels due to transit the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden would be diverted south around the Cape of Good Hope for the foreseeable future.

“The situation is constantly evolving and remains highly volatile, and all available intelligence at hand confirms that the security risk continues to be at a significantly elevated level,” it said.

“While we continue to hope for a sustainable resolution in the near-future and do all we can to contribute towards it, we do encourage customers to prepare for complications in the area to persist and for there to be significant disruption to the global network.”

The governments of Australia, the US, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore and the UK issued a joint statement last week condemning attacks against commercial vessels.

“Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilising,” the governments said.

“There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels.”

They said attacks on vessels threaten freedom of navigation – the bedrock of global trade – in one of the world’s most critical waterways.

“These attacks threaten innocent lives from all over the world and constitute a significant international problem that demands collective action.

“Nearly 15% of global seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea, including 8% of global grain trade, 12 %of seaborne-traded oil and 8% of the world’s liquefied natural gas trade.

“International shipping companies continue to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, adding significant cost and weeks of delay to the delivery of goods, and ultimately jeopardising the movement of critical food, fuel, and humanitarian assistance throughout the world.”

The governments called for the attacks to end immediately and for the release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews.

“The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”

The World Shipping Council, International Chamber of Shipping and BIMCO thanked the nations for “defending rules-based international order” and “holding malign actors accountable” for vessel seizures and attacks.

“The shipping associations call on all nations and international organisations to protect seafarers, international trade in the Red Sea, and to support the welfare of the global commons by bringing all pressure to bear on the aggressors so that these intolerable attacks cease with immediate effect,” they said.

The International Bargaining Forum, which comprises the ITF and the Joint Negotiating Group of maritime employers, designated the southern section of the Red Sea and Bab El-Mandeb as a High Risk Area late last month.