Skip to main content

Qatar halts five gas tanker journeys through the Red Sea after US-led air strikes on Yemen

Three tankers heading to Europe and two returning to the Gulf state stopped, days after US and UK air attacks on Houthi targets in Yemen
This handout photograph released by AS J Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi on 12 December 2023 shows the Norwegian-flagged chemical tanker the MT Strinda (AFP)
This handout photograph released by AS J Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi on 12 December 2023 shows the Norwegian-flagged chemical tanker the MT Strinda (AFP)

Qatar has halted sending liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers via the Red Sea, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg. 

The Gulf state - the world's second largest LNG exporter - stopped at least five vessels in recent days, days after US and UK air strikes targeted the Houthis in Yemen

Late on Thursday, explosions were reported in several Yemeni cities, including Saada, Dhamar, the port city of Hodeidah, and capital Sanaa. 

The strikes were in response to the Houthis, the de-facto leaders in Yemen, targeting vessels passing through the Red Sea with drone and missile attacks, in protest against Israel's war on Gaza. 

Several shipping lines have since suspended operations, instead opting to take a much longer journey around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Three of the five Qatari LNG tankers had been heading to Europe, but were halted off the coast of Oman, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, two empty ships returning to Qatar to reload were stopped - one in the Red Sea near Bab el-Mandab, and the other in the Mediterranean Sea near the Suez Canal. 

"It is a pause to get security advice, if passing (through the) Red Sea remains unsafe we will go via the Cape," a senior source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. "It is not a halt of production."

Longer new route

According to an analyst cited by Reuters, going the longer route could add nine days to the 18-day journey from Qatar. 

Doha had been one of the few nations to continue using the Red Sea in recent weeks despite the fear of Houthi attacks. But the American and British attacks in recent days are likely to have heightened the risk to tankers. 

The Houthis have said their attacks in the busy waterway are an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and that they are targeting ships with links to Israel.

In a televised speech on Thursday, Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi vowed a “big” response to the US and its allies if they proceeded with military action against his group.

"Any American attack will not remain without a response. The response will be greater than the attack that was carried out with 20 drones and a number of missiles," he said in a speech on Thursday.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.