Shipping chief says continued Red Sea disruption could have ‘significant implications’ for global growth

Continued disruptions to trade flows across the Red Sea could hit global economic growth, the head of one of the world’s largest container carriers said on Thursday.

Maersk Chief executive Vincent Clerc said it remained unclear whether waterway passage would be restored in “days, weeks or months”, in comments first provided to the Financial Times and confirmed by CNBC.

“It could potentially have quite significant implications for global growth,” Clerc said.

The company announced on Friday that its vessels would be diverted for the “foreseeable future” from the Red Sea, which provides access to Egypt’s Suez Canal, the fastest route between Europe and Asia.

The vessels instead travel around the southern coast of Africa, which can add two to four weeks to the voyage between Europe and Asia, Clerc previously told CNBC.

Maersk also said this week that some inland shipments were facing delays due to a wave of strikes in Germany.

The maritime diversions by Maersk and a number of other firms are due to a series of attacks on ships by Houthi militants from Yemen. The group’s leaders say they are responding to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

Clashes continue into the new year, despite the launch of a US-led military task force that has seen major powers send warships to the area.

Houthi militants this week launched the biggest offensive of the campaign so far.

Red Sea shipping disruption 'worse than ever' but 'not as bad as Covid': Analyst

Companies including Sweden’s Ikea have warned of possible product delays as a result, while shipping rates rise.

Another sign of volatility in the region was the hijacking of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said on Tuesday that global growth would see its worst half-decade in 30 years.

Ayhan Kose, the group’s deputy chief economist, told CNBC that the global economy faces a number of risks, including an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East or the war in Ukraine.

—Another message from Ruxandra Iordache

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