Saudi oil tankers ‘sabotaged’ off coast of United Arab Emirates

US issues new warning saying Iran ‘or its proxies’ could target maritime traffic in region

Samuel Osborne
Monday 13 May 2019 16:49 BST
The UAE said four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah were sabotaged
The UAE said four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah were sabotaged

Two Saudi oil tankers were among four ships sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the kingdom’s energy minister has announced.

The attacks on Sunday caused “significant damage” to the vessels, Khalid al-Falih said, as the US issued a new warning to sailors that Iran “or its proxies” could target maritime traffic in the region.

America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Iran.

The UAE said four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah were sabotaged, but officials did not elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might be responsible.

One of the ships was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the US. Another was a Norwegian-registered product tanker named the MT Andrea Victory, ship-management company Thome Ship Management said.

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for clarification about what exactly happened to the Saudi tankers, with ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi warning against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners”.

In his statement, Saudi energy minister Mr Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6am on Sunday.

“One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” Mr Falih 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.”

His statement came hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at Fujairah’s port.

A statement on Sunday from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah.

It said it was investigating “in cooperation with local and international bodies”. It said there were “no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels” and “no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel”.

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Fujairah’s port is about 140km (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded.

Additional reporting by agencies

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