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Kuwait May Suspend Oil Exports Through Bab el Mandeb Strait

oil tanker

Kuwait is mulling over whether to suspend oil shipments via the Bab el Mandeb strait in the Red Sea, a Kuwaiti oil official told Reuters on Thursday, after Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil exports via the crucial chokepoint in the Middle East following an attack on two of its tankers by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

“All options are possible but there is nothing confirmed so far,” Badr al-Khashti, chairman of Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC), told Reuters today. Kuwait, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, has not made any decision yet on whether to halt oil exports via Bab el Mandeb, the official added.

On Wednesday, the Houthis targeted a Saudi oil tanker, causing minimal damage, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The attack took place in international waters in the Red Sea, off Hodeidah port—the only port that the Houthis control.

Following the attack, Saudi Arabia temporarily halted crude oil and oil product shipments via Bab el Mandeb until the situation becomes clearer. Initial reports of the attacks only mentioned one tanker targeted by the Houthis, but later it became clear that two Very Large Crude Carriers had been targeted, one of which sustained minor damage.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), also an ally of the Saudis, described the Houthi attack as “totally irresponsible.”

“This is a totally irresponsible act,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said in London on Thursday. “The effect of it actually is much wider than the region.”

Related: China’s CNPC To Invest $22 Billion In New Oil Frontier

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is one of three crucial chokepoints around the Arabian Peninsula. Located between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, Bab el-Mandeb connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.

An estimated 4.8 million bpd of crude oil and refined petroleum products are being shipped through Bab el-Mandeb, which is a narrow strait limiting tanker traffic to two 2-mile-wide channels for inbound and outbound shipments, and potentially making tankers easy targets.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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