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The Yemeni Houthis have said all U.S. ships passing through the Red Sea will be targeted from now on following last week’s missile strikes by U.S. and UK forces on targets in Yemen.
"The ship doesn't necessarily have to be heading to Israel for us to target it. It is enough for it to be American," Nasruldeen Amer, a spokesman for the militant group told Aljazeera, as quoted by Reuters. "The United States is on the verge of losing its maritime security."
Initially, the Houthis began attacking ships that were either traveling to Israel or had Israeli ownership or other ties. Since November, there have been close to 30 attacks.
The Houthis retaliated quickly for the attacks, firing anti-ship missiles at a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea during the weekend. Then, on Monday, they struck a U.S.-owned, Marshal Islands-flagged merchant ship with a cruise missile.
Last week, ongoing missile strikes by the Houthis on merchant vessels pushed Brent crude oil prices to $80 briefly as operators increasingly diverted commodities away from the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
On Monday, Reuters cited ship-tracking data showing at least 25 tankers getting diverted from their original course through the Red Sea.
Also on Monday Qatar joined the ranks of those avoiding the route, announcing it would no longer send its LNG carriers on this route through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off the coast of Yemen. According to Bloomberg, since Friday, at least five LNG carriers scheduled to traverse the Strait have been halted.
As a result of the attacks, ship traffic through the Red Sea has been decimated, with most vessel operators opting for the longer route from Asia to Europe around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. Others are combining shipping with air transport to get goods to their end destination faster.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com