The Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen have seized a vessel that was towing a South Korean drilling rig that was in the Red Sea, the Saudi-led collation said on Monday, in what is an apparent escalation of tensions in the Middle East following drone attacks and other ship seizures in vital oil shipping lanes.
The vessel, the tugboat Rabigh-3, was seized on Sunday, according to the Saudi coalition as reported by Reuters—a development that was confirmed by a Houthi official, who said the vessel would be released if the vessel was confirmed that it was of South Korean origin and not from “countries of aggression”.
Saudi Coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Malki characterized the incident as a hijacking “by terrorist elements affiliated to the Houthi militia.”
The Rabigh-3 flies under the Saudi Arabian flag. The current destination of the Rabigh-3 is listed as the SALEEF port in Yemen.
South Korea is demanding the release of its rig and its crew, and Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami and South Korean Ambassador Pak Woongchul are meeting to discuss the incident.
The Houthi rebel group was eager to claim the incident on September 14 where Saudi Aramco oil infrastructure was attacked, taking offline millions of barrels of oil per day off the market. However, questions were raised immediately about the veracity of those claims, with many analysts and experts pointing the finger directly at Iran instead. Regardless of the perpetrator of the attacks, the incident raised concerns as to the security of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in the run up to its local IPO.
Oil prices were trading stubbornly down on Monday afternoon as the oil markets appear to be building up its immunity for insecurity issues over Middle East oil.