Tankers carrying Qatari LNG resume course amid Red Sea tension

(Reuters) - Four tankers used for shipments of Qatari LNG have resumed course after pausing for several days amid maritime attacks by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis in the Red Sea, LSEG shiptracking data showed on Tuesday.

The Houthi attacks, in what they call a bid to support Palestinians in the war with Israel, have disrupted trade on the main East-West route that makes up about 12% of global shipping traffic.

On Monday, the Houthi movement vowed to widen its targets in the Red Sea region to U.S. ships, following U.S. and British strikes on its sites in Yemen.

LNG tanker Al Rekayyat has resumed sailing through the Red Sea and is heading to Qatar, the data showed, after having been stopped since Jan. 13 along its Red Sea route.

The vessels Al Ghariya, Al Huwaila and Al Nuaman, loaded with Qatari LNG, were also on the move, but had changed course to head south even though they are still signaling the Suez Canal as their destinations, the data showed.

Qatari LNG cargoes transiting Suez are typically headed for Europe.

The three tankers had stopped off the coast of Oman since Jan. 14.

The estimated time of arrival for the Al Nuaman was last updated to Jan. 19 after an earlier two-week delay to Feb. 4, the data showed.

QatarEnergy did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside official business hours.

Shipowners and managers of the four vessels, including Teekay Shipping Glasgow, Pronav Ship Management and Nakilat Shipping Qatar Ltd did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shell, which owns shipping and chartering arm STASCO, manager of the Al Nuaman, declined to comment.

Vessels have been pausing or diverting from the Red Sea that leads to the Suez Canal, the fastest route for freight from Asia to Europe.

LNG vessels are among the many ships forced to take the longer route around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope instead.

Analysts estimate the Cape of Good Hope route could add about nine days to the 18-day voyage from Qatar. A longer route would result in delivery delays, but gas storage levels in Europe are healthy.

S&P estimates Qatari LNG cargoes through the canal at 14.8 million metric tons (MMt) a year, U.S. cargoes at 8.8 MMt and Russian ones at 3.7 MMt.

Front-month European benchmark gas prices on the Dutch TTF hub eased on Monday, as milder weather forecasts and well-filled storage helped offset shipping concerns.

QatarEnergy, the world's second largest LNG exporter, has stopped sending tankers via the Red Sea although production continues, a senior source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday.

In 2023, Qatar exported more than 75 MMt of LNG, according to LSEG data, including 14 MMt to buyers in Europe and 56.4 MMt to Asia.

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