Dual Oil Tanker Diversion into Red Sea Adds to Ongoing Disruption

Two oil tankers that had turned back from the Red Sea have passed through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, ship-tracking data shows, despite ongoing tensions in the region disrupting global shipping and trade. The vessels’ return, as tracked by LSEG and Kpler, comes nearly a week after the United States and Britain launched strikes against Houthi positions in Yemen due to protracted attacks on commercial shipping. Prior to the strikes, despite the attacks, the majority of vessels continued to traverse the Red Sea, but more ships were diverting course due to escalating tensions. Traffic of oil-laden tankers through Bab al-Mandab was 58% lower than the 2023 average over Jan. 13-17, with tankers transporting “clean” fuels being more affected. The two Aframax tankers that passed through Bab al-Mandab on Jan. 17 after turning away are the Indonesia-flagged Gamsunoro and the Marshall Islands-flagged Free Spirit, both carrying heavy fuels. Saudi oil giant Aramco can bypass Bab al-Mandab through an oil pipeline connecting Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil facilities with its western coast. At least 22 other oil tankers have diverted or paused since last Friday’s warning to avoid the Bab al-Mandab Strait, with 15 taking the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope and seven remaining in the Gulf of Aden or the northern Red Sea.