Trade volume passing through the Suez Canal, which is suffering from attacks by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, has fallen by 42% in the past two months, according to the UN.

“We are very concerned about attacks on maritime transport in the Red Sea (…) which exacerbate trade disruptions linked to geopolitics and climate change,” declared Thursday, January 25, during a press conference, Jan Hoffmann, an official at the United Nations body responsible for trade and development (UNCTAD).

According to UNCTAD, due to Houthi attacks that pushed shipowners to suspend transits through the Red Sea and bypass Africa, the volume of trade through the Suez Canal fell by 42% in the last two months. . And the weekly number of container ship transits fell 67% year-on-year. “As the largest container ships are primarily those no longer using the Suez Canal, the decline in container quantity is even greater,” noted Hoffman.

The drop in transit of oil tankers is 18%, that of bulk cargo ships (grain, coal, etc.) is 6% and gas transport is at a standstill.

Other maritime routes “under tension”

Since November, Yemeni Houthi rebels have said they are targeting ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that they consider linked to Israel, in “solidarity” with the Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering from the vast military operation launched by Israel at the time. following the unprecedented attack carried out on its soil on October 7 by the Islamist movement Hamas.

The disruptions to trade in the Red Sea are all the more worrying given that “more than 80%” of global trade in goods is carried out by sea and that “other important routes are already under stress”, underlined the expert from UNCTAD.

Thus, transit via the Black Sea was largely disrupted after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, causing a surge in global food prices in the months that followed. And due to a drought, the water level in the Panama Canal has dropped significantly, reducing traffic. Thus, last month, the number of crossings through this channel fell by 36% compared to a year earlier, and by 62% compared to two years earlier, according to UNCTAD.

“Prolonged disruptions on major trade routes could affect global supply chains, leading to delays in deliveries of goods, increased costs and a risk of inflation,” notes the UN agency, expressing particular concern for world food prices.