Saudi tankers ship oil again in Bab Al-Mandeb

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General view of Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in eastern Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo)
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The Kingdom had temporarily stopped moving crude through the strait on July 25 after attacks by Houthi militias in Yemen on two oil tankers sent shockwaves through global energy markets. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 05 August 2018
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Saudi tankers ship oil again in Bab Al-Mandeb

  • Coalition takes ‘necessary measures’ to secure key Red Sea waterway
  • After Saudi Arabia halted shipments, the Houthis said they would also halt attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts

DUBAI/LONDON:  Saudi Arabia has resumed oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab Al-Mandeb.

The Kingdom had temporarily stopped moving crude through the strait on July 25 after attacks by Houthi militias in Yemen on two oil tankers sent shockwaves through global energy markets.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said: “The decision to resume oil shipment through the strait of Bab Al-Mandeb was made after the leadership of the coalition has taken necessary measures to protect the coalition states’ ships.”

The measures were taken “in co-ordination with the international community,” the minister said. 

Saudi Aramco also confirmed that shipping had resumed, effective immediately. “The company is careful to continue monitoring and evaluating the current situation in coordination with the relevant bodies and take all necessary procedures to ensure safety,” it said.

Saudi Arabia leads an Arab coalition against the Houthis to restore Yemen’s legitimate government, but the attacks on the tankers were the first time the conflict threatened to disrupt energy markets.

Houthis’ weapons hunt

The Bab Al-Mandeb strait is a narrow waterway connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea. 

After Saudi Arabia halted shipments, the Houthis said they would also halt attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts.

The resumption of shipments through the waterway is good news for both consumers and oil companies who until now had been pondering the impact of either paying higher insurance premiums to use the channel or re-route exports around Africa.

Meanwhile, North Korea supplied weapons including ballistic missiles to the Houthis after a deal reached in Damascus in 2016, according to a report by a UN investigation team.

The report said Syrian arms trafficker Hussein Al-Ali offered “a range of conventional arms, and in some cases ballistic missiles to armed groups in Yemen and Libya.”


Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

Updated 18 December 2018
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Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

  • El Sharara — a 315,000 barrels a day field was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments
  • Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent

TRIPOLI: Libya’s state oil firm NOC has declared force majeure on operations at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after it announced a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters.

The 315,000 barrels a day field, located in the south of the North African OPEC member country, was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds.

Officials have been unable to persuade the groups, who have been camping on the field, to leave the vast, partly unsecured site amid disagreements how best to proceed, workers on the field said.

Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent and encourage more blockades, workers at the oilfield say.

NOC has described the occupiers as militia trying to get on the payroll of field guards, a recurring theme in Libya where many see seizing NOC facilities as an easy way to get heard by the weak state authorities.

Production will only restart after “alternative security arrangements are put in place,” NOC said in a statement.

Operations at the smaller El Feel oilfield continued as normal, engineers said.

“Production at Sharara was forcibly shut down by an armed group — Battalion 30 and its civilian support company — that claimed to be providing security at the field, but which threatened violence against NOC employees,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah said in the statement.

His comments came after the chief of staff of the Tripoli-based government, Abdulrahman Attweel, criticized some of Sanalla’s previous comments about the protesters as “irresponsible.”

“These people (guards) were there to protect the field without salaries and without any attention to them and their daily needs, not in terms of accommodation, supply, transportation and communication,” Attweel told Al-Ahrar channel late on Monday.

Their demands were legitimate, he said, echoing comments by some southern lawmakers and mayors demanding more jobs and development for the neglected region.
The blockade has been complicated by the presence of tribesmen, who have argued against quick cash payments saying they want funds to improve hospitals and other services, which might take time to deliver.

The shutdown of the El Sharara has not affected the El Feel oilfield, also located in the south. It continued to pump around 70,000 barrels a day, field engineers said.
Its exports were being routed via the Melittah oil and gas port, which like El Feel belongs to a joint venture NOC has with Italian energy company Eni, another engineer said.

A spokesman for NOC did not respond to a request for comment.
El Sharara crude is normally transported to the Zawiya port, also home to a refinery. NOC runs the field with Spain’s Repsol , France’s Total, Austria’s OMV and Norway’s Equinor, formerly known as Statoil.