Oil giant Shell has suspended all Red Sea shipments as attacks by Yemeni Houthi rebels increase. The decision follows an assault on a ship operated by the British company in December – Houthi terrorists attacked the vessel with a drone while it was carrying jet fuel to India.
Shell is the third major company to pull out of the region, following on from BP, which paused shipments last month, and Qatar Energy, which did the same in early January. Shell has not commented on the length of its suspension, but an unnamed source reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that the pause is “indefinite.”
The Red Sea is located along the coast of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, with Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea on the other side. It is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, and experts warn that supply chain disruption could result if the Houthi attacks continue. Some companies have begun re-routing shipments around the Cape of Good Hope, adding 3,000-3,500 nautical miles to their journey.
Houthis, an Iran-funded Islamist militant group from Yemen, began attacking vessels in the Red Sea as revenge for Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza and its Western support. They intend to inflict economic damage in the West by forcing shipping companies to make longer journeys, thereby pushing up prices.
On January 12, US and UK forces launched air strikes against the Houthis and sections of Yemen under their control. President Biden said the strikes were “in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea.” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the air strikes as an act of self-defense.
Houthis are also involved in the Yemeni civil war that has been raging for years and has caused the death of around 370,000 people. The conflict is largely religious and based on internal Islamic disagreement and schism. The UN says over 80% of Yemen’s population faces hunger as a direct result of the war.