THE INTERNATIONAL Chamber of Shipping has called for attacks on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to stop immediately.

The ICS voiced its “serious concerns” for commercial ships and seafarers after multiple reports of seizures, attacks and route diversions.  

It has been less than two weeks since Yemen’s Houthis hijacked the car carrier Galaxy Leader with 25 seafarers on board.

Since then, an armed group has attempted to seize the tanker Central Park – a statement from the US Department of Defense on 27 November indicates it was Somali pirates who boarded the vessel.

The crew of Central Park is now safe, according to the DOD, but the Galaxy Leader crew is still being held in Yemen.

“These attacks must stop immediately, and the innocent seafarers released,” ICS said.

“The cost to the safety and well-being of the seafarers on board those ships while in the service of global trade being embroiled in these attacks should not be underestimated.”

ICS said the attacks are “a flagrant breach” of international law and maritime norms.

It said in all cases vessels transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden were conducting their right of freedom of navigation and innocent passage.

Industry has issued routing guidance for ships in the region urging vessels transiting these waters to conduct thorough threat and risk assessments.

Shipping companies are now re-routing vessels in response to the threats.

Maersk on 28 November announced that “unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances” had forced it to divert two of its ships, Lisa and Maersk Pangani.

Shipping databases suggest the vessels are linked to an Israeli shipowner.

Maersk said the diversions would cause delays.

“This decision has been made with careful consideration of various factors, prioritising the safety of crew, the vessel and your cargo,” Maersk said.

“While we strive for seamless operations, these circumstances have necessitated this deviation from our usual route.

“Regrettably, the temporary route diversion is anticipated to result in a delay exceeding one week from the initial delivery schedule.”

Israeli line Zim has also announced it would re-route vessels as a safety measure.

ICS called on states with influence in the region to “use everything within their power” to maintain freedom of navigation and “dissuade the antagonists” from persisting in aggressive and illegal action.

“ICS firmly believe that the well-developed maritime security architecture in the region should continue to be maximised to ensure that no other ships and their crew fall victim to such aggression.”