Qatar halts Red Sea tankers after US-led airstrikes

QatarEnergy, a major LNG exporter, temporarily halts Red Sea tanker passage due to U.S.-led strikes against Houthi militants in Yemen.

FILE PHOTO: A missile is launched from a warship during the U.S.-led coalition operation against military targets in Yemen, aimed at the Iran-backed Houthi militia that has been targeting international shipping in the Red Sea, from an undisclosed location, in this handout picture released on January 12, 2024. US Central Command via X/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

QatarEnergy, Qatar’s liquefied natural gas exporter, and one of the largest in the world, has temporarily halted the passage of tankers through the Red Sea due to U.S.-led strikes against Houthi militants in Yemen.

The Houthis, expressing solidarity with Palestinians during the three-month long war between Israel and Hamas, hijacked vessels in the Red Sea, disrupting the crucial trade route and raising alarm among Western powers.

The state-owned firm, QatarEnergy, has kept at least four LNG tankers off the coast of Oman, citing security reasons for their pausing.

This pause followed numerous airstrikes by the US and the UK on the Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis, engaged in a prolonged conflict with a Saudi-led coalition, have extended their focus to the sea, exerting pressure on Israel in recent months. In response, the U.S. military intercepted an anti-ship cruise missile fired by the militants.

British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps remarked, “let’s wait and see what happens,” regarding the possibility of additional strikes. The conflict in the Red Sea is one Britain said it would rather avoid, although it will safeguard the right of free navigation.

The situation has impacted businesses, with Suzuki halting production in Hungary due to delayed engine arrivals from Red Sea attacks. QatarEnergy is reportedly seeking security advice before deciding to resume Red Sea passage or take the longer route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

The Houthis remain steadfast in targeting Israel-linked ships, heightening concerns about the security of this vital maritime passage. The Red Sea, a critical shipping route linking Europe and Asia, sees about 12% of world shipping traffic through the Suez Canal.

These geopolitical tensions have affected energy markets, with fluctuations in European gas prices and Asia spot LNG prices. Despite rising Middle East tensions, oil supplies have remained unaffected, leading to a slight dip in oil prices after a brief increase last week.

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