USA: Houthi Attacks Push Oil Supplies Toward South Africa

The longer route transit has increased time, costs, and even air pollution

There has been an increase in both the number of attacks and weapons used by the pro-Iranian group Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, to target merchant ships near the Red Sea. According to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations Agency (UKMTO), a small boat likely struck the stern of a vessel recently involved in an accident in the Red Sea, 66 nautical miles southwest of the port of Hodeidah (a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen). It would be a 5-7-meter-long kamikaze drone, very similar to the ones Ukraine used to attack Russian ships in the Black Sea.

After the attack, US forces launched a punitive air raid on Hodeidah province, targeting the al-Faza coast near al-Tuhayta, where US intelligence suggests kamikaze marine drone bases are located.

Meanwhile, the Houthi attacks are putting more and more pressure on the global economy. Ships should avoid passing through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency of the US Department of Energy, “international shipments of crude oil and petroleum products that follow the long route between Asia, the Middle East, and the West, via South Africa, have increased by 47% since the Houthi attacks began in November 2024.” The need to send giant oil tankers around the Cape of Good Hope has greatly increased not only the cost of delivery, but also air pollution. Until the beginning of 2024, 12% of the world’s maritime transportation were carried out via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. According to the EIA, about 8.7 million bpd of crude oil transited the South African route in the first five months of 2024, compared to an average of 5.9 million bpd in the corresponding period last year.