BP, Evergreen Halt Shipments Through Red Sea After Iran-Backed Houthi Terror Attacks

Houthi Media Center via AP

BP on Monday joined the growing list of companies that have halted or restricted shipping through the Red Sea due to terrorist attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi terrorists of Yemen.

The Houthis attacked a Norwegian ship in the latest incident on Monday, while a U.S. destroyer fought off a massive swarm of Houthi attack drones on Saturday. 

“The safety and security of our people and those working on our behalf is BP’s priority. 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 London-based multinational oil company said on Monday.

BP added it would keep this “precautionary pause under ongoing review” as the security situation in the region changes.

Also on Monday, shipping giant Evergreen Line said it would “temporarily stop accepting Israeli cargo with immediate effect, and has instructed its container ships to suspend navigation through the Red Sea until further notice.”

As with BP, Evergreen said the suspension of Israeli cargo was necessary “for the safety of ships and crew.”

Oil prices edged up three percent on Monday after BP’s announcement, as analysts worried other oil companies might follow suit, leading to serious supply disruptions. About 12 percent of the world’s oil is shipped through the Red Sea.

BP and Evergreen join a list of shipping companies that have suspended or limited passage through the region threatened by the Houthis. Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk led the pack on Friday, followed by German’s Hapag-Lloyd, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), Norwegian oil tanker group Frontline, Belgian oil tanker group Euronav, and Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor.

The Yang Ming Marine Transport company of Taiwan said on Monday it will divert its Red Sea traffic via the Cape of Good Hope for the next two weeks.

The latest Iran-sponsored pirate attack was launched from Yemen on Monday, as multiple projectiles were fired at the Norwegian-owned MV Swan Atlantic. 

The company that owns the ship, Inventor Chemical Tankers, said one of the projectiles struck the vessel and damaged its water tank. The crew also had to contain a small fire. The ship, which carried a load of vegetable oils, continued on its way to Reunion Island after a U.S. Navy destroyer responded to its distress calls. 

“The crew and the ship are now being assisted by the U.S. Navy and will be brought to safety under protection by naval forces,” the company said.

The destroyer that responded to the call, USS Carney, intercepted and destroyed a swarm of 14 Houthi attack drones on Saturday. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the unmanned vehicles were “one-way attack drones” launched as a “wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.”

According to CENTCOM, Carney destroyed all of the drones “with no damage to ships in the area or reported casualties.” As with several previous incidents of drones intercepted by U.S. destroyers in the Red Sea, CENTCOM did not specify whether USS Carney was the intended target of the drone swarm.

The British Royal Navy said on Saturday that its warship HMS Diamond shot down a suspected attack drone over the Red Sea. 

The British Ministry of Defense did not definitively state the Houthis launched this drone, but Defense Minister Grant Shapps said drone attacks were “a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.”

“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” he said.

The Houthis claim they are blockading Israel to punish it for combatting the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, warning they would attack ships either owned by Israeli firms or bound for Israeli ports. As with several other ships attacked and hijacked over the past few weeks, Inventor Chemical Tankers said neither condition applied to the MV Swan Atlantic.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) officials said on Monday they received reports of up to four separate incidents off the Yemeni coast and near the vital Bab El Mandeb Strait.

The Houthis are a jihadi movement that calls itself “Ansar Allah,” the Army of Allah. Its slogan is “Allahu Akbar, Death to the United States, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory for Islam.” President Joe Biden lifted Ansar Allah’s classification as a terrorist organization in February 2021.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for two attacks on shipping on Monday, the MV Swan Atlantic and the MSC Clara. The Houthis said they fired on both ships after the vessels refused to respond to their commands.

The MSC Clara is a container ship currently en route to Abu Dhabi. Naval tracking websites said the ship was still under way as of their last positional update.

The Biden administration has been slow to respond to the escalating Houthi threat, even as Red Sea shipping shutdowns threaten to damage the global economy and U.S. Navy ships battle swarms of attack drones. The administration claims it is trying to assemble the “broadest possible” coalition to secure the shipping lanes.

On Monday, a “source close to the matter” told Reuters that Italy is considering an invitation to join this Red Sea security coalition. The source said Rome will make a decision by the end of the week.

“The Pentagon has in recent days moved the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, to support a potential U.S. response to attacks,” two U.S. officials told Politico on Saturday.


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