Tanker Companies Halt Red Sea Shipping After the US Bombs Yemen

Oil prices surged after the strikes, which President Biden said were launched to uphold 'freedom of navigation'

President Biden’s decision to bomb Yemen has disrupted shipping in the region as several major tanker companies halted transits through the Red Sea after the US and British airstrikes against the Houthis.

While container shipping had been disrupted by Houthi attacks on Israel-linked shipping, Red Sea oil and fuel tanker traffic had remained steady in December. But the tanker companies Hafnia, Torm, and Stena Bulk all halted Red Sea transits on Friday, and shipping data showed many tankers in the area turning around.

The Combined Maritime Forces, a US-led coalition in the region, had issued a warning that advised ships to avoid transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait for “several days.” Oil prices also spiked by about 4% on Friday following the US and British strikes.

President Biden said he ordered the strikes in Yemen to preserve “freedom of navigation” in the region. But the bombing significantly escalated tensions and made the situation much more volatile as the Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah, are warning of a major response.

The Houthis have repeatedly stated they would halt attacks on shipping once Israel ended its slaughter in Gaza. Instead of pressuring Israel to lift the siege, President Biden chose regional escalation, a decision that has come under significant criticism from members of Congress who say the bombing was unconstitutional.

US concerns about freedom of navigation ring hollow to the people of Yemen, as since 2015, the US has helped a Saudi-led coalition enforce an air, land, and sea blockade on Houthi-controlled areas, which is where most Yemenis live. The blockade has been eased since the Houthis and Saudis reached a ceasefire in April 2022 but hasn’t been fully lifted.

The US-backed war against the Houthis killed 377,000 people between 2015 and 2022. More than half were killed due to starvation and disease caused by the bombing campaign and blockade.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.