Two Saudi Arabian oil tankers were targeted by “sabotage attacks” adding more heat to the regional tensions.
Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, announced to the state-run media on Monday morning that two of his nation’s oil tankers were targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The site of the attacks is less than 100 miles from the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping channel. The tankers sustained “significant damage.”
He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
The UAE on Sunday said an alleged sabotage attack targeted four boats, without elaborating or naming suspects. It is believed that one of the vessels was Norwegian.
Reuters reported INTERTANKO, an association of independent tanker owners and operators, saying that it had seen pictures of “at least two ships have holes in their sides due to the impact of a weapon,” and that “trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi vessels as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah.”
The Saudi Foreign Ministry published a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Monday, saying, “this criminal act poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and international peace and security.”
Though it is still unknown who was responsible for the attack, the timing raises suspicions that indicate that Iran may be involved. Last week, the U.S. Maritime Administration issued a warning to commercial shipping companies that from the beginning of May there had been, “an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”
The White House ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4, indicating heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
The statement from the Saudi government on the alleged “sabotage attacks” off the United Arab Emirates port at Fujairah came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the port in Fujairah.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned that such incidents could spark a larger conflict.
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended,” Hunt said about the incident.
Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, agreed with that assessment.
“Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Al Zayani said in a statement.