Some ships traveling through the Red Sea are now turning off their tracking systems to avoid being attacked by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a report says.
The evasive maneuvers come as shippers, including Hapag Lloyd, MSC, Maersk, as well as BP and the oil tanker group Frontline, have announced that they will be rerouting their vessels from the area and sending them around South Africa instead.
The news agency, citing data from the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), reports that four MSC container ships in the Red Sea have had their transponders shut off since Sunday. The company on Saturday announced its intentions to avoid the area.
Other ships are trying to obscure their whereabouts by pinging their locations as being somewhere else when approaching the Yemen coastline, Ioannis Papadimitriou, a senior freight analyst at Vortexa – a ship tracking company – told Reuters.
Some ships reportedly have armed guards on board. At least 11 cargo vessels that passed through the Suez Canal are currently anchored in the Red Sea between Sudan and Saudi Arabia, Reuters also reported, citing LSEG data.
At the southern end of the Red Sea on Tuesday, a vessel was approached by four small boats about 80 nautical miles northeast of Djibouti, according to Reuters.
The news agency, citing a report from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, said four to five people were on each boat, but there was no reported sighting of weapons.
The closest boat followed the path of the vessel in a "suspicious approach" before breaking away, it added.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday announced the formation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational security initiative to address the security challenges in the Red Sea.
"The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law," Austin said in a statement. "The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade."
FOX Business’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.