Chinese shipping companies have ramped up transits through the Red Sea as they bet on immunity from Houthi attacks.
A flurry of smaller shipping companies are making new journeys through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait broadcasting that they are from China, according to experts.
Chinese-linked container ships accounted for less than 15pc of Red Sea transits last year, according to Lloyd’s List. By the second week of January, the share had nearly doubled to 28pc.
The entry of new Chinese-flagged vessels comes despite continued missile attacks on ships by Iran-backed rebels. Houthi rebels have been attacking Western ships in retaliation for Israeli military action in the Gaza strip.
Chinese companies appear to be banking on immunity from attacks because of alignment between Iran and China, which imports oil from the Middle Eastern nation.
Cichen Shen, of shipping journal Lloyd’s List, said: “We haven’t seen any reports about China-linked ships being attacked by the Houthis.
“There seems to be a tendency that Chinese or China-linked ships are widely viewed as a safer asset to transit the Red Sea. At least within the Chinese shipping community, that’s definitely the sentiment right now.”
Simon Johnson, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and former chief economist to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said: “There is an axis of Russia, China and Iran.”