Shipping industry calls on UN for protection after Iran seizes ship near Strait of Hormuz

Iran has attacked or seized about 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels since 2021, says US Navy

A cargo ship seen at sea near Djibouti. According to the US Navy, Iran has 'attacked or seized' about 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels since 2021. Getty Images
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The world's shipping industry called on the UN on Friday to provide enhanced military protection for vessels and their crews operating in the Middle East following the seizure of a container ship by Iran.

On Saturday, Iranian armed forces seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz amid rising regional tension.

“The world would be outraged if four airliners were seized and held hostage with innocent souls on board,” said a letter from the world's leading shipping industry associations, addressed to UN Secretary General António Guterres.

“Regrettably, there does not seem to be the same response or concern for the four commercial vessels and their crews being held hostage.”

According to the US Navy, Iran has “attacked or seized” about 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels since 2021.

The world's leading shipping industry associations said Iran's seizure of the MSC Aries container ship “once again highlighted the intolerable situation where shipping has become a target”.

The letter also stated that seafarers and the maritime sector should remain “neutral” and not be subject to “politicisation”.

“Given the continually evolving and severe threat profile within the area, we call on you for enhanced co-ordinated military presence, missions and patrols in the region, to protect our seafarers against any further possible aggression,” it added.

The incident has led companies to reroute vessels, significantly prolonging travel times and escalating operational costs necessary to sustain trade flows.

Recent attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis have also affected maritime transport in the region.

In January, Danish container shipping giant Maersk said it would reroute all vessels around Africa, avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal indefinitely, three days after Houthi forces attacked the company's vessel Hangzhou, prompting an intervention by the US military.

Last week, Washington's National Security Council announced the US military is working with allies to deploy more ships and aircraft to the Middle East, especially the Arabian Gulf.

It said it will also be increasing its co-ordination with the International Maritime Security Construct, an alliance of 11 nations focused on safeguarding merchant shipping in the region.

Updated: April 19, 2024, 5:48 PM