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Shell Halts All Red Sea Shipments as Tensions Rise

Shell has suspended indefinitely all its shipments via the Red Sea/Suez Canal route amid rising tensions in the region and fears of escalating Houthi attacks on commercial shipping, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing sources with knowledge of the supermajor’s decision.

An oil tanker that Shell had chartered to ship jet fuel out of India was targeted by a drone and harassed by boats of the Iran-backed Houthis in December, shipping officials have told the Journal.

Shell is the latest major firm that has decided to halt tanker transit through the Red Sea.

In the middle of December, another UK-based supermajor, BP, temporarily suspended all shipments via the route, “in light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea.”

The area has become a prime target of attacks on vessels by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Amid escalating tensions in the Middle East and the U.S. and UK strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen last week, the largest shipping and tanker industry groups advised members to stay away from the Bab el-Mandeb Strait while shippers were diverting transit away from the Red Sea en masse again.

Since Friday, tensions in the area ratcheted up further, after an anti-ship cruise missile was fired on Sunday from Houthi areas of Yemen toward USS Laboon, which was operating in the Southern Red Sea. The missile was shot down in vicinity of the coast of Hudaydah by U.S. fighter aircraft, and there were no injuries or damage reported, the U.S. Central Command said.

On Monday, the Houthis fired a missile and struck a U.S.-owned merchant vessel—the Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated container ship. The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage and is continuing its journey, the U.S. Central Command said.


In the most recent development as of early on Tuesday, 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.  

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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