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Maritime security firms and U.S. officials report daily incidents about attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen who continue to attack commercial vessels near the most important oil trade chokepoints in the Gulf.
Attacks on cargo ships or tankers near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait from Houthi-held territory in Yemen have become a daily occurrence in recent weeks as the Iran-aligned rebels intensified attacks after the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October.
In the latest incidents on Friday, two Liberia-flagged ships came under attack in the Bab al-Mandab Strait from the Houthis in Yemen, a U.S. defense official told Reuters. Drones and ballistic missiles were used in Friday’s attacks, which caused fires on the ships, but didn’t result in any injuries.
On Wednesday, the Houthis fired two missiles from a territory they hold in Yemen, targeting – but missing – a commercial tanker near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that was carrying jet fuel from India and was headed toward the Suez Canal via the Red Sea.
The intensified attacks on commercial vessels around Yemen and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait have pushed up insurance premiums and have made some shipowners consider options to bypass the Suez Canal route and make a much longer journey around Africa.
Maersk fuel carriers will have the option of bypassing the Red Sea following the spate of attacks on other vessels in the area, possibly extending fuel voyages by thousands of miles.
Maersk said on Thursday that its fuel carriers can bypass the Red Sea to avoid potential danger, according to company correspondence seen by Bloomberg. If carriers choose to bypass the Red Sea, it will also bypass the Suez Canal and add thousands of miles to their journeys, opting to sail around Africa instead.
This will add days to the journey and burn “hundreds of tons more fuel” according to Bloomberg. On the other hand, however, it could save on insurance costs that have increased since the Houthis ratcheted up their attacks.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com