Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

    Shell suspends all shipments to the Red Sea after Houthi attacks on tankers

    Shell has suspended all shipments to the Red Sea after Houthi rebels launched attacks on cargo ships plying the trade route, the Wall Street Journal said.

    The British oil giant declined to comment on Tuesday on the report, which quoted insiders as saying the suspension was indefinite. Oil prices rose about 1 percent on Tuesday, but analysts said the actual impact on production was limited.

    A tanker chartered by Shell carrying Indian aviation fuel was targeted by the jihadists last month. The ship was attacked by a drone and harassed by rebel boats.

    The Houthis, Iran-backed Islamist militants who control Yemen, have stepped up attacks on cargo and military ships in the Red Sea during the war between Israel and Hamas.

    Shell has joined other major companies in bypassing the Red Sea, which accounts for about 12 percent of total seaborne oil trade. BP halted all shipments last month, while Qatar Energy did the same this week.

    FILE PHOTO: The Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released on November 20, 2023

    Oil prices rose about 1% on Tuesday as investors weighed the impact of tensions in the Middle East. The geopolitical risk premium on oil prices could reach a ceiling unless production is halted, analysts said. “In the absence of any real and tangible impact on oil, production prices will remain well within the current range of $72-$82,” PVM analyst Tamas Varga said in a note.

    Shell’s move comes after the US today released images of Iranian missile parts and other weaponry from a Yemen-bound ship seized last week in an attack that left two of its commandos missing.

    Meanwhile, another ship believed to have come under fire from the Houthis in the Red Sea and sustained some damage, although no one was injured, officials said.

    The attack marks the latest seizure by the US Navy and its allies of weapons shipments bound for the rebels, who have launched a series of attacks threatening global trade.

    The attacks, the US-led retaliatory strikes and the incursion have all increased tensions in the wider Middle East, with Iran also carrying out ballistic missile attacks in both Iraq and Syria.

    The SEAL attack took place last Thursday, with the commandos launching from the USS Lewis B. Puller, supported by drones and helicopters, while the US military’s Central Command said the attack took place in the Arabian Sea.

    The SEALs found cruise and ballistic missile components, including propulsion and guidance equipment, as well as nuclear warheads, Central Command said. It added that air defense components had also been found.

    “Preliminary analyzes indicate that the same weapons have been used by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent sailors on international merchant ships transiting the Red Sea,” the Central Command said in a statement.

    Images released by the U.S. military analyzed by The Associated Press showed components resembling rocket engines and others previously seized. It also contained what appeared to be a cruise missile with a small turbojet engine – a type used by the Houthis and Iran.

    The U.S. Navy eventually scuttled the ship carrying the weapons after deeming it unsafe, Central Command said. The ship’s fourteen crew members have been arrested.

    The Houthis have not acknowledged the seizure and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Tehran has long denied arming the rebels, despite physical evidence, numerous seizures and experts linking the weapons back to Iran.

    Meanwhile, a missile struck the Malta-flagged bulk carrier Zografia in the Red Sea on Tuesday. The ship was heading north towards the Suez Canal when it was attacked, the Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy said.

    Iranian-made missile parts bound for the Houthi in Yemen have been seized from a ship in the Arabian Sea. US Navy SEALs have seized Iranian-made missile parts and other weaponry from a ship bound for Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a raid that left two of its commandos missing, the US military said Tuesday.

    This undated photo released by the US military’s Central Command shows what it describes as the ship carrying Iranian-made missile components en route to Yemen’s Houthi forces in the Arabian Sea. US Navy SEALs seized Iranian-made missile parts and other weaponry from a ship bound for Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a raid that left two of its commandos missing, the US military said Tuesday, January 16, 2024. (US Central Command via AP)

    The ship – operated by a Greek company – had no cargo on board and suffered only material damage, the ministry said. The crew consisted of twenty Ukrainians, three Filipinos and one Georgian.

    Satellite tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Zografia was still moving after the attack.

    The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which monitors incidents in Middle Eastern waterways, previously acknowledged an attack near the Zografia.

    Since November, the Houthis have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea, saying they were avenging Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have often targeted ships with weak or no apparent ties to Israel, endangering shipping on a key global trade route.

    US-led airstrikes targeted Houthi positions on Friday and Saturday. In response, the Houthis launched a missile at a US bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, further increasing the risks of the conflict.

    The SEALs traveled in small special operations combat craft, piloted by Special Operations Navy crew members, to reach the boat. As they boarded in rough seas around 8 p.m. local time, a SEAL was repelled by high waves and a teammate chased him. Both remain missing.

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