Saudi Arabia Halts Oil Shipments At Key Chokepoint

Iran-backed Houthis hit Saudi oil tanker off Yemen coast

Al-Malki: Houthi attack on Saudi oil tanker fails

"All oil shipments through Bab al-Mandab Strait have been suspended temporarily until... maritime transit through the area is safe", Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement released by state media.

Shipments through the world's major oil transit route in the Red Sea have been halted by Saudi Arabia, following attacks on two oil tankers by Yemen's Houthi rebels earlier Wednesday.

However, experts said they do not rule out that this attack is linked, in one way or another, to recent Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which tankers carry 18 million barrels per day if Iranian oil exports are banned under the USA sanctions expected to be implemented on November 4.

Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies have been fighting in Yemen for three years against the Iran-aligned Houthis, who control much of North Yemen including the capital Sanaa and drove a Saudi-backed government into exile in 2014.

Saudi Arabia can still use its East-West mega-pipeline to ship crude from its oil fields in the Gulf into the city of Yanbu on the Red Sea, bypassing the strait and keeping the European market within regular reach.

The Bab el Mandeb strait is the route that most crude oil shipments through the Suez Canal take to reach worldwide markets, with a daily throughput of some 4.8 million bpd of crude and oil products as of 2016.

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 US Energy Information Administration.

Iran-backed Houthis hit Saudi oil tanker off Yemen coast
Saudis halt oil shipments through waterway after Yemen rebel attack

Falih also said one of the VLCCs had sustained "minimal damage" and efforts were underway to move it to the nearest Saudi port. "No injuries nor oil spill have been reported", Aramco said.

The Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which runs close to the shoreline of Yemen, is the main shipping lane linking the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

Col. Al-Malki reaffirmed: "The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition has and will always implement all security and precautionary measures to sustain safety and security of freedom of navigation and global trade in the Red Sea and the Straits of Bab-El-Mandeb". The attack failed due to the immediate intervention of the Coalition's fleet.

The Houthis' Al Masirah TV had said on Twitter that they had targeted a warship named the Dammam off the western coast of Yemen in what the group later said was a missile attack.

Yemeni forces regularly target positions inside Saudi Arabia and fire rockets at the coalition's battleships in retaliatory attacks against the Riyadh-led military operation on Yemen.

"Today's attacks and Saudi announcement will also escalate tensions with Iran, which supports Houthi forces that have been increasingly threatening Saudi onshore and offshore oil assets and flows".

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