IMF: Red Sea container traffic is down almost 30%

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Container shipping through the Red Sea has dropped by nearly one-third this year as attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels continue, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.

“Container shipping has declined by almost 30%,” said Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, adding that “the drop in trade accelerated in the beginning of this year.”

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The IMF’s PortWatch platform indicates that the total transit volume through the Suez Canal was down 37% this year through January 16 compared with the same period a year earlier.

The canal connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

“The level of uncertainty is extremely high, and the developments will determine the extent of change and shift in trade patterns in terms of volume but also in terms of sustainability,” Azour told reporters in an online briefing.

“Are we on the verge of major change in trade routes,” he said, “or is it temporary because of the increase in costs and the deterioration of the security costs?”

Wednesday’s IMF briefing came as the fund released a revised economic outlook for countries in the Middle East and North Africa.