The Middle East international shipping conflict further escalates (cargo owners and forwarders please note)


  Israel's attack on Iran on Friday raised fears of a further escalation of the conflict in the Middle East waters.

Iranian state media reported that air defense units had been activated to deal with unmanned aerial vehicles following an explosion near a major air base near the city of Isfahan.

Maritime security experts warned ships passing through the Arabian Gulf and the Western Indian Ocean to be on alert for increased drone activity in the region.

The attack appeared to be in retaliation for Iran's hijacking of the container ship MSC Aries and an attack on Israel after Sunday's attack on the Israeli consulate in Syria.

The latest tit-for-tat between the two countries has added to the ongoing risk to shipping in the region since the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen began attacking ships over the Gaza war.

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The Houthis have reportedly launched more than 50 attacks on ships since November, hijacking a car carrier so far and sinking Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar.

The British military's UK Maritime Trade Action Centre said there was no indication at this time that commercial sea vessels were intended targets, but advised captains to report any suspicious activity and drone activity in the area.

Flight restrictions in Iranian airspace have also been lifted and airlines are moving to an alternate airport. As tensions escalated, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs issued a recommendation urging Australians in Israel to leave the country.

"Crews passing through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz should be prepared to deal with the hail of Iranian forces, and if the vessel is deemed to be aiding Israel, it is likely to be seized regardless of the effectiveness of the seizure. The Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz are now likely to be in the same situation as the Red Sea," Métis Analysis noted in a recent update.

"Concerns have arisen about the potential impact of these attacks on trade routes, particularly those through the vital Strait of Hormuz, which handles almost 30 percent of world oil trade. Any disruption to these routes could have a significant impact on tanker cargo," Braemar warned in a recent tanker review.