The Saudi government said it has suspended oil shipments through the Red Sea after Yemen-based, Iran-aligned Houthi rebels attacked Saudi oil tankers.
Two very large crude carriers, which can each carry 2 million barrels of oil, operated by the Saudi National Shipping Company “were attacked by terrorist Houthi militia this morning in the Red Sea. One of the ships sustained minimal damage,” according to a statement posted by Saudi Aramco on Wednesday. “No injuries nor oil spill have been reported.”
“In the interest of the safety of ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill, Saudi Aramco has temporarily halted all oil shipments through Bab El-Mandeb with immediate effect. The company is carefully assessing the situation and will take further action as prudence demands,” it said.
The Houthis, who have previously threatened to block the strait, said on Thursday that they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets. Iran has threatened to block another strategic shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz.
Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran have been embroiled in a three-year year proxy war in Yemen. Iran backs the Shia Houthi rebel faction.
“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement.
Kuwait said that it is also considering halting all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
Other countries condemned the attacks.
“The cowardly attack constitutes a flagrant violation of all international laws and norms and poses a serious threat to the freedom of international trade and maritime navigation in Bab Al-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea,” Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Whilst reiterating its full solidarity with the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and supporting the measures it takes to preserve its resources and deter attempts to harm its security, the Kingdom of Bahrain emphasizes the need for immediate global action to put an end to such dangerous acts,” it added.
It was not clear if a Saudi-led military coalition would take additional security measures or impose further restrictions on imports to Yemen, which is struggling with the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis.
A senior oil source said Saudi Arabia had already beefed up oil security and that all crude vessels in the area are accompanied by security ships.
Reuters contributed to this report.