Saudi Arabia announced last week it was suspending oil shipments through the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb strait after Yemen’s Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.
To date, no other exporters have followed suit. A full blockage of the strategic waterway would virtually halt shipment to Europe and the United States of about 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
THE YEMEN WAR
The threat to shipping in Bab al-Mandeb has been building for some time, with the Houthis targeting Saudi tankers in at least two other attacks this year. It is not unusual to reevaluate security after such an incident, but Riyadh's announcement also carries a political dimension.
Analysts say Saudi Arabia is trying to encourage its Western allies to take more seriously the danger posed by the Houthis and step up support for its war in Yemen.
"Rather than allowing these hostile manoeuvres to go unnoticed in the eyes of the world, the Saudi (energy) minister has placed Iran's subversions of the whole global economy under the spotlight for everyone to see," said energy consultant Sadad al-Husseini, a former senior executive at Saudi Aramco. "The capture of the port of Hodeidah will go a long way towards putting an end to these disruptions."
Hodeidah, Yemen's main port, is the target of a coalition offensive launched on June 12 in a bid to cut off the Houthis' primary supply line.