Munirah Fahd Al-Hamdan
Will oil tankers war continue?
The Strait of Bab Al-Mandab is considered one of the most vital international ports on the Red Sea. It constitutes a great geopolitical importance. According to a report conducted by the US Energy Agency, the quantities of crude oil that pass through the Strait of Bab El-Mandeb are estimated at 4.8 million barrels per day. According to the Agency’s estimations in 2016, about 2.8 million barrels head to Europe per day. In addition, another two million barrels pass in the opposite direction and constitute a serious target for many hostile parties. Houthi Militias have recently targeted two oil tankers Huta «Each of them contains two million barrels of oil. According to a previous article, cyber attacks pose a major threat to the economy and security of any country in general, but it constitutes a greater challenge in the maritime sector in particular. Any tanker carrying individuals, goods or oil in particular would be vulnerable to many cyber attacks that could lead to its destruction and submerging. The tanker can also be followed or monitored for the purpose of carrying out acts of sabotage or terrorism ». This happened after targeting the two oil tankers. This attack was implemented through tracking and forward planning by using technology and cyber tools.
This attack has many security and economic dimensions. The Kingdom’s reaction was to suspend the passage of oil tankers from the Strait of Bab Al-Mandab until the navigation becomes safe. This suspension left a greater impact at the global level more than the local one. For example, the US crude oil inventories fell more than expected to their lowest level since 2015, while exports soared and oil inventories at the delivery center of Kaching fell. On the other hand, Kuwait considers suspending the passage of its oil tankers through the same strait. The International law grants the right of passing through the international straits to all tankers and vessels. According to1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), it prohibits the obstruction of traffic in any way in these international straits and held those impeding navigation responsible.
The Houthi attack not only threatens international trade and violates the international law but also threatens the international navigation, peace and security. This attack produces legal results that give the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the right to defend itself and hold the irregular armed groups (Houthis) and their supporters an international responsibility. In addition, this attack reinforces the Kingdom's position to liberate Hodeidah in Yemen, which is controlled by Houthis. Hodeidah port is considered the starting point for these attacks carried out by criminal militias. This is a strong support for the Arab coalition forces to rid the port from Houthi control. The Kingdom-led Arab Alliance has long expected a peaceful solution played by the UN in the region for safeguarding civilians from the Houthi attacks.
On the other hand, Tehran may have other goals in the region. There is no doubt that the Strait of Hormuz is of great importance. In the light of escalating the international sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program and the threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, Iran aims to make this strait a dangerous passageway a mater which increases the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz for the purpose of reinforcing the Iranian threats of its closure.
Looking back to history, especially what happened in mid 1980s, navel mines were used in the Gulf waters while Iran was attacking oil shipments. The US, UK and other super powers safeguarded other countries’ oil tankers and some tankers raised the US flag. In addition, air strikes were carried out against Iranian maritime positions. This is we call the then war oil tankers. The question posed here: Will we see that war again?