Saudi Red Sea oil shipments halted after Houthi attack
Shipments through the world's major oil transit route in the Red Sea have been halted by Saudi Arabia, following attacks on two oil tankers by Yemen's Houthi rebels earlier Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih announced that the kingdom would be "temporarily halting" shipments through the critical Bab al-Mandab strait - off the coast of Yemen, due to attacks on Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) earlier in the day.
"Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandab Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandab is safe," the statement from the energy minister said.
Bab al-Mandab is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world with around 4.8 million barrels of oil passing through the straits every day.
The closure will likely have a big impact on energy supplies and oil prices.
The strait lies between Yemen and East Africa and an important shipping route for oil from the Arabian Peninsula to Europe, via the Suez Canal.
Attacks on shipping and Saudi, UAE naval vessels have been fairly common in the Red Sea, since the start of the war in Yemen in 2014.
Although the latest attack resulted in only minimal damage on the tankers, it was enough to spook Saudi Arabia, which is leading the war against Houthi rebels.
"The two million barrels capacity for each tanker were full of crude oil cargo at the time and were headed for export. One of the VLCCs sustained minimal damage," Falih said.
"However, fortunately, there were no injuries or oil spill that would have resulted in catastrophic environmental damage. Efforts are currently underway to move the damaged ship to the nearest Saudi port."
The Houthis claimed a rocket attack on the ships and a Saudi-led coalition naval ship.
War broke out in Yemen in September 2014, when Houthi rebels took over the capital Sanaa, forcing the government to flee south.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to support the government with air strikes contributing heavily to the more than 13,000 people killed in the war.
A UAE-Saudi led offensive on the port of Hodeida has see the coastal town subject to a siege.