Bahri VLCCs gathering off Oman amid Bab el-Mandeb ban
VLCCs owned and operated by Bahri have started to gather off the southern coast of Oman after state-owned Saudi Aramco temporarily halted oil shipments through the Bab el-Mandeb strait.
Bahri is the transport and logistics arm of the state-owned oil company and the Bab el-Mandeb strait at the bottom of the Red Sea is the primary means of transit for VLCCs between the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal.
Three part-laden oil tankers owned by Bahri (the Marjan, the Khuzama and the TI Hawtah) have weighed anchor off Salalah over the past 24 hours, according to S&P Global Platts.
The development comes after Bahri earlier this week banned its ships from transiting the Bab el-Mandeb strait, due to an attack by Yemeni militants on two of its vessels.
The strait is a critical chokepoint through which some 4.8 million b/d of crude and refined products are shipped, according to US Energy Information Administration data from 2016.
The bulk of Europe's crude imports from the Middle East are transported via the strait on their way to the SUMED pipeline or the Suez Canal.
The three VLCCs visible on AIS ship tracking systems are waiting at anchor with two more Bahri-owned VLCCs, the Abqaiq and the Arsan, which arrived July 25 and July 23, but have since turned off their transponders.
An unladen VLCC, the Hilwah, passed through the strait on Sunday and is headed for Ras Tanura on Saudi Arabia's east coast. It may have been permitted to take this route because it was carrying no cargo.
The Khafji, another Bahri-owned VLCC carrying a cargo loaded on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, appears to be heading for Bab el-Mandeb on its way to Jeddah.
It’s unclear whether its voyage will be allowed to continue.
Waiting at Salalah will enable the tankers to resume their voyages promptly if Saudi Aramco rescinds the ban within the next few days.