Members of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Multimodal Freight held a call with stakeholders across the U.S. supply chain Feb. 1 to discuss issues related to the ongoing disruptions to maritime transport through the Red Sea.

The Houthi militant group (which is based in Yemen and supported by Iran) is continuing to attack commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea, an important approach to the Suez Canal that handles a significant share of global seaborne trade. In response, some international shipping companies are suspending voyages through the Red Sea and rerouting their vessels around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, resulting in higher costs and shipment delays that are now expected to last at least several months. The U.S. and others are responding with military action in an attempt to secure this trade lane.

According to a DOT press release, industry participants indicated that they are beginning to see isolated challenges and expect increased congestion at some U.S. container ports – including the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – in the next four to six weeks as shippers re-route cargo to avoid the Red Sea. They agreed with U.S. officials, however, that lessons learned from handling supply chain bottlenecks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are already helping inform the response to these challenges. The participants reportedly expressed appreciation for the DOT’s efforts to bring people together and to prepare for potential congestion before it occurs.

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