Saudi Arabia Suspends Oil Shipments Through Red Sea Lane After Houthi Attack

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that it was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb, after an attack on two big oil tankers by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, Reuters informs.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that the Houthis had attacked two Saudi very large crude carriers in the Red Sea on Wednesday morning, one of which sustained minimal damage.

“The VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) suffered minor damage and no human injuries or environmental damage have been reported,” Saudi Arabia’s shipping group Bahri said on Wednesday in a statement without elaborating, Reuters reports. The two vessels, each carrying 2 million barrels of oil, belong to the Saudi National Shipping Co., Bloomberg writes.

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” al-Falih noted. “In the interest of the safety of ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill, Saudi Aramco has temporarily halted all oil shipments through Bab el-Mandeb with immediate effect.”

Naval forces affiliated with the Houthis said they targeted Saudi military vessels, not oil tankers, Wall Street Journal informed. “The side that threatens the international security and peace and endangers the security of the Red Sea is Saudi-American-led aggression,” said a statement from the Houthi-linked forces.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, off the coast of Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, connects the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea and is one of the world’s major waterways for crude oil and other petroleum products. Still, it’s significantly less crucial than the better-known Strait of Hormuz offshore Iran. An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2016 toward Europe, the United States and Asia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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