As an alternative to the risky Red Sea crossing, shipping companies have started to transport Turkish export products to the Gulf countries via Saudi Arabia via road connection.
As the crisis in the global supply chain caused by the Houthi attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea grows, MSC, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, has launched a new service to deliver Turkish products to the Arabian Gulf countries bypassing Yemen, where the attacks were organized.
MSC bypassed Yemen. The company transports cargo to King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia with medium-sized ships, and from there to Gulf countries with trucks. During the test voyage, the cargo from Mersin reached Kuwait in 10 days.
In this context, the company delivers cargo from Tekirdağ, Derince and Mersin ports to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port by medium-sized ships crossing the Suez, and from there by trucks to other Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE.
On the first trial voyage, Turkish cheeses from Mersin were transported to Kuwait in refrigerated containers in a total of 10 days, 5 days at sea and 5 days on land.
MSC takes action for Turkish exporters
In the Red Sea, Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking ships passing through the Suez Canal since the beginning of December in connection with the Israel-Hamas war. While container freight was on the rise as giant shipowners such as Maersk, MSC and Hapag Lloyd, which dominate global maritime transportation, switched their routes to the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Suez Canal for transportation between Asia and Europe, the supply chain started to break down as transit times increased by nearly 40 percent. While some global factories had to suspend production, the crisis hit Turkey’s foreign trade. While the increase in raw material imports raised prices in the domestic market, some export orders were suspended by their buyers abroad. Exporters selling goods to Gulf countries were the most affected by the crisis. MSC took action to remedy the victimization of its Turkish customers.
“Food orders were canceled”
Speaking to EKONOMİ newspaper, MSC Turkey General Manager Baris Dilek stated that they first launched a trial voyage on January 5 and said, “We gave priority to food products because Turkish food products have an important share in the Gulf countries. However, since the transit times were very long due to the Red Sea crisis, the buyer abroad did not want the goods. In the first trial voyage, local cheeses from Mersin were delivered to the buyer in Kuwait in 10 days. Transit times to the Gulf countries were up to 45 days due to the Cape of Good Hope. Thanks to our new service, this period decreased to less than 15 days. From Mersin to Saudi Arabia in 5 days and from there to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates by road in 4 to 8 days. In the first trial run, local cheeses from Mersin were delivered to Kuwait in 10 days.”
Automotive and white goods interested in the new route
Reminding that the Red Sea crisis affected exports to Gulf countries the most in Turkey’s foreign trade, Baris Dilek said, “Imports are mainly made from Far Eastern countries. However, Gulf countries have an important share in exports and this share is increasing. We first transported food products and our trial voyage was successful. In addition to the automotive sub-industry and white goods, demands from the textile, forestry products and construction sectors have also started to come.” Stating that they are currently transporting to Gulf countries with three ships of 5 thousand TEU, Dilek said that they can increase the size of the ships if the demand increases.
Hapag Lloyd also opened land corridors
Hapag-Lloyd, one of the leading shipping companies, also announced that due to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, it will continue to route its ships around the Cape of Good Hope until further notice, but has opened land corridors through Saudi Arabia to mitigate the impact of this route change on its business. In an earlier statement to customers on its website, the company said it would offer land connections from Jebel Ali, Dammam and Jubail to its ocean services out of Jeddah. “Our aim is to provide a suitable emergency solution to overcome this unexpected closure until the situation in the Red Sea returns to normal,” the statement said.
Local shipowners too, prepare an alternative
Local shipowners are also preparing alternative solutions to overcome the Red Sea crisis. Mahmut Isik, General Manager of Medkon, one of Turkey’s leading shipping companies, made statements to EKONOMİ on the subject. Stating that they are preparing to establish a joint service for Gulf countries with Turkon, another local shipping company, Işık said, “We are trying to clarify the details. We are considering a ‘joint venture’ service with two 1,100 TEU ships. We have planned the route to be Mersin-Iskenderun-Cidde-Aqaba.”