Ships Advertise Chinese Links to Avoid Houthi Attacks

Signals Follow a Similar Move by Some Ships Indicating No Links to Israel
Yangshan Deepwater Port
Fishing boats and shipping containers near the Yangshan Deepwater Port in Shanghai. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

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At least five vessels transiting the Red Sea are using their signals to say they have links to China — the latest unusual measure taken to try to avoid attack by Houthi militants in the Red Sea.

Each of the ships is signaling “all-Chinese crew” or something similar in a field that would normally contain its destination. Two are currently in the Red Sea, while two more have navigated the risky waterway and are now sailing to Asia. A fifth appears to be heading toward the Gulf of Aden: Eva Global, OVP Taurus, Stonewall Glory, An Hai Wan and Pacific Wealth.

Since early November, there has been a surge in attacks on merchant ships transiting the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthis. They say they are targeting vessels with links to Israel to protest against its military campaign in Gaza, though ships with no direct connection to Israel have also been affected.

The result has been significant disruption to swaths of the global merchant fleet.

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Suez Canal transits have plunged, falling to the lowest level since the waterway was blocked by a giant containership in 2021, as many ships choose to avoid the Red Sea and instead sail thousands of miles around Africa to deliver their goods.

The five ships’ destinations show that their crew — or the companies that own the carriers — believe that being affiliated with the Asian country could help avert attack. Ship destinations are normally entered manually by the crew and are then visible to almost anyone on the internet.

The signals advertising Chinese connections follow a similar move by some ships that had been indicating no links to Israel. There are currently five such vessels, of which four are in the Red Sea: Pocahontas, Dalian Star D, Kota Rahmat and Briolette.