BP pauses Red Sea shipments as another commercial vessel is attacked near Yemen

BP pauses Red Sea shipments as another commercial vessel is attacked near Yemen


A Norwegian-owned vessel was attacked in the Red Sea on Monday in a strike that U.S. officials said originated from Yemeni territory controlled by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Several shipping giants have paused transit in Red Sea

Thomson Reuters


A large ball of fire is shown lighting up a dark background.

In this photo provided by the Royal Navy on Saturday, HMS Diamond fires its Sea Viper missile to engage and shoot down an aerial drone over the Red Sea. Drones have been targeting merchant shipping since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in early October. (Royal Navy/Ministry of Defence/The Associated Press)

A Norwegian-owned vessel was attacked in the Red Sea on Monday in a strike that U.S. officials said originated from Yemeni territory controlled by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The attack on the M/V Swan Atlantic was the latest in a series on ships sailing the sea since the start of the Gaza war.

The owner of the ship said it was hit by an unidentified object and that none of its crew had been injured.

Oystein Elgan, chief executive of owner Inventor Chemical Tankers, told Reuters the ship’s water tank had been damaged in the attack but all the vessel’s systems were operating normally.

Operator Uni-Tankers said in a statement the crew had brought under control a small fire after the vessel was struck on its port side. The ship was carrying vegetable oils and is sailing to Reunion Island.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for launching an attack on two ships by naval drones, group military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement published on X on Monday. The Houthis identified the two ships as the Swan Atlantic and MSC Clara, the spokesperson added.

‘Deteriorating security situation’

Oil and gas giant BP became the latest company to pause transit through the area. Shipping giants MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM and Maersk had done so earlier, according to a CNBC report.

“In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea,” the company said. “We will keep this precautionary pause under ongoing review, subject to circumstances as they evolve in the region.”

WATCH | Houthi attacks show solidarity with Palestinians:

Houthi militias attacking ships in the Red Sea

Yemen’s Houthi militias have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, claiming they’re acting in solidarity with Palestinians and that all of the targets have some connection to Israel. Now, the U.S. is calling for a coalition to protect vessels.

The Suez Canal shipping route, which leads to the Red Sea, is a vital waterway for global trade, used to transport energy and other goods between Europe and Asia, and elsewhere. The route saves on time and expense by avoiding navigating around the entire Africa continent.

The Houthis have attacked vessels in the Red Sea area in protest of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, launched in response to the Hamas attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7. They say they are attacking vessels with links to Israel and have warned against sailing toward there.

Inventor Chemical Tankers has no ties to Israel, Elgan said. A U.S. Navy destroyer responded to the ship’s distress calls by moving toward the ship, the U.S. officials said.

Two armed men are shown on the platform of a ship as a helicopter flies overhead.

An image from handout footage reportedly shows members of the rebel group during the capture of the Galaxy Leader ship. The Houthis say they are targeting any ship that is either going to Israel, or has Israeli connections. (Houthi Media Center/The Associated Press)

Attacks have occurred in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the southern outlet of the Red Sea, between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea on the African coast.

The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, meanwhile, was seized by Houthis last month.

The Houthis said on Saturday that real steps to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip would contribute to “reducing the escalation.” They also said that they were in Oman-mediated talks about its sea “operations.”

That was the first indication that the militia group may be willing to de-escalate. The U.S. has said it is seeking an expanded coalition to protect ships in the Red Sea and to send a signal to the Houthis.

Key shipping route

About 12 per cent of world shipping traffic goes through the Suez Canal, the shortest maritime route between Europe and Asia.

Travelling through the Cape of Good Hope at South Africa to avoid the Suez Canal will increase costs and add about 10 days to a journey from Asia to northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, experts said.

The attacks have stirred memories of 2021, when container ship Ever Given ran aground in the canal, blocking dozens of other container ships. The episode aggravated supply strains caused by the coronavirus pandemic, delaying shipments of goods by months and sending freight rates soaring.

Zvi Schreiber, CEO of global freight platform Freightos, told Reuters “it is unlikely that rates will spike to levels experienced during the pandemic” as a result of the current problems in the Red Sea.

“Shippers could expect longer lead times due to longer voyages, but operations should continue reasonably well,” he said.

Marco Forgione, director general at the Institute of Export and International Trade, was less sanguine, saying the attacks are occurring during a critical time in the buildup to the Chinese New Year.

“Container rates are going to go up, the cost of insurance is going to go up, all of this has an impact on the price point

for the consumer,” he said.

With files from CBC News

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