January 8, 2024 | Flash Brief

China’s Largest Shipping Company Suspends Transports to Israel Due to Houthi Attacks

January 8, 2024 | Flash Brief

China’s Largest Shipping Company Suspends Transports to Israel Due to Houthi Attacks

Latest Developments

China’s state-owned shipping company COSCO temporarily suspended shipping to Israel on January 7 likely due to escalating Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. This move follows the January 6 decision of COSCO subsidiary Orient Overseas Container Line to indefinitely suspend shipping to and from Israeli ports.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have vowed to attack any cargo ship en route to Israel. For months, commercial vessels have faced Houthi harassment, missile attacks, and attempted hijackings in the Red Sea. On January 6, Houthi rebels ordered the tanker Central Park, operated by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, to divert course. Central Park called upon the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Thomas Hudner for assistance and continued sailing.

Expert Analysis

“COSCO’s announcement reflects its alignment with China’s foreign policy priorities, including its support for Iran and perceived bias against Israel. If nothing else, this decision should serve as a stark wake-up call for Israel to reduce its trade reliance on China while pursuing opportunities with other countries, like India.” — Craig Singleton, FDD Senior Fellow

“The Houthis and their patron in Tehran will welcome this news and view it as validation that maritime terrorism works. This announcement by COSCO is part of a broader pattern of behavior by Beijing in recent weeks. The take-home message for Israelis to remember is this: Following October 7, the United States was there for Israel in its moment of need — and China was not.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

COSCO Decision Weakens Israeli Shipping Operations

China is among Israel’s top trading partners, and China has invested in Israeli maritime infrastructure, including Israel’s largest international port, located in Haifa. Industry analysts report COSCO’s decision could limit the number of available ships to service regular Israeli shipping lanes, increasing shipping costs for major Israeli companies like Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd.

These burdens add to existing shipping surcharges caused by the Houthis’ attacks, like pricey war risk premiums for insurance policies that aim to financially protect shipping companies from wartime events. Houthi attacks have forced ZIM’s shipping fleet to take 56 percent longer and more expensive routes around Africa to avoid the Red Sea.

Houthi Attacks On International Shipping Continue,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Deploys Warship To Red Sea As Houthis Continue Attacks,” FDD Flash Brief

Will The World Take Action Against Houthi Threats In The Red Sea?,” FDD Adjunct Fellow Seth J. Franzman


China Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War