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BP suspends Red Sea operations amid Houthi attacks

"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 oil and chemical tanker "Atlantic Prince" at the BP Oil Refinery Jetty, Kwinana, Western Australia, November 2023. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The oil and chemical tanker "Atlantic Prince" at the BP Oil Refinery Jetty, Kwinana, Western Australia, November 2023. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

British energy giant BP on Monday became the latest company to announce a halt to shipping via the Red Sea amid an escalation in attacks from Houthi-controlled Yemen.

“The safety and security of our people and those working on our behalf is BP’s priority,” the company said in a statement.

“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. We will keep this precautionary pause under ongoing review, subject to circumstances as they evolve in the region,” the statement continued.

BP joins a list of shipping companies that have stopped sending vessels through the Suez Canal-Red Sea-Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint route, including Evergreen, Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Hapag-Lloyd and CMA-CGM.

Taiwanese container shipping line Evergreen announced on Monday its decision to stop accepting Israel-bound cargo, saying that ships in the Red Sea will be instructed to sail to safer waters nearby and wait for further notification, while container ships scheduled to pass through the Red Sea will instead be routed around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been launching daily attacks at Israel and threatening commercial shipping channels since they declared their support for Hamas terrorists in their fight against Israel in Gaza.

On Monday, the Yemeni group said that it attacked two “Israeli-linked” vessels—an oil and chemical tanker, and a container ship.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a … military operation against two ships linked to the Zionist entity” using seaplanes, the statement said. It identified the ships as Norway’s Swan Atlantic, sailing under the Cayman Islands flag, and the Panamanian-registered MSC Clara.

Earlier, the U.S. said that the Swan Atlantic was attacked in the southern Red Sea with missiles fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen and that the USS Carney destroyer responded to the tanker’s distress call by moving towards the ship.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that during his Middle East visit, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will announce the launch of a maritime protection force with the participation of Arab states to counter the Houthi threat. It will be provisionally called “Operation Prosperity Guardian.”

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