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

Saudi Arabia halted temporarily oil shipments through the lane on July 25 after attacks on two oil tankers by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement

File photo: A container ship passes by a beach in the Red Sea's Aqaba Gulf, July 12, 2018.
\ AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it has resumed all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb.

Saudi Arabia halted temporarily oil shipments through the lane on July 25 after attacks on two oil tankers by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

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A statement by the Energy Ministry said shipments had resumed on Saturday.

“The decision to resume oil shipment through the strait of Bab al-Mandeb was made after the leadership of the coalition has taken necessary measures to protect the coalition states’ ships,” Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in the ministry statement.

Saudi Aramco confirmed that shipping had resumed effective immediately.

“The company is careful to continue monitoring and evaluating the current situation in coordination with the relevant bodies and take all necessary procedures to ensure safety,” Aramco said in a statement.

Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis in a three-year war, lies along the southern end of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers. The tankers pass near Yemen’s shores while heading from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.

The Bab al-Mandeb strait, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, is only 20 km (12 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially easy targets.

After Saudi’s decision to halt shipments, Yemen’s Houthi group said on July 31 it would halt attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts.

The Saudi coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia accuses regional foe Iran of supplying missiles to the Houthis, which both Tehran and the Houthis deny.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that any attempt by Iran to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandeb at the mouth of the Red Sea would be met by an international coalition that would include Israel.

"Earlier this week, we witnessed a sharp clash with Iran's satellites who tried to sabotage international shipping in the Straits at the mouth of the Red Sea," Netanyahu said at a graduation ceremony for naval officers.

"If Iran tries to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandeb, it will find itself facing an international coalition determined to prevent it from doing so, and this coalition will also include the State of Israel and all its arms," Netanyahu warned.