Monday, 27 May, 2019

Saudi Oil Tankers Damaged by Sabotage Attacks Near Strait of Hormuz

UAE says four vessels targets of 'sabotage' in waters near Fujairah port Four ships 'sabotaged' off the coast of the UAE amid fears Iran is targeting US-supporting vessels
Russell Knight | 14 May, 2019, 06:43

Falih said the attack aimed to undermine maritime freedom and "security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world".

The Associated Press reported that a us official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, "said each ship has a 5- to 10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line, and the team's early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges". A second has been surrounded by a boom as a precaution to contain any oil leak.

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers past year. This could not be confirmed by Bahri, although both tankers were signalling they were in the area in the early hours of Sunday morning, when reports said the incident happened.

The price of oil has recently been rising following news of the US' increased push to curb Iran's oil trade and Washington's sanctions against another oil-exporting country - Venezuela, sparking fears of a shortage in crude supply.

The apparent sabotage took place near to UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the emirate of Fujairah, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Sunday that the USA military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represents a target, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. It has the advantage of allowing ships to load up and drop off crude oil without needing to pass through Hormuz at all.

It also comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Brussels to discuss Iran with French, British and German officials.

The UAE said Iranian and Lebanese news reports of explosions at the port of Fujairah were not correct, and added "media outlets must be responsible and rely on official sources".

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As of 2 p.m. local time on May 12, queues of 47 outbound and 48 inbound vessels were waiting to transit the channel. The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health is monitoring the communities nearby.

That was about 30% of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the incidents "worrisome and dreadful", and asked for an investigation into aspects of the matter.

"The ministry stressed that exposing commercial ships to acts of sabotage and threatening the lives of their crews is a unsafe development, stressing the need for the global community to assume its responsibilities to prevent any parties trying to undermine the security and safety of maritime traffic", the foreign ministry statement read.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, seen in this photo from March, said the attack didn't cause any casualties or oil spills. Even as the S&P 500 was down more than 2 percent during midday trading on Monday, Brent crude was up 1.5 percent. Two Saudi oil tankers, a Norwegian-flagged vessel, and a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE's seven emirates, all suffered similar damage Sunday.

Images that CNN captured of the Norwegian tanker, Andrea Victory, show damage sustained to the hull of the vessel. Saudi Arabia is Iran's regional rival.

It gave no details about the nature of the sabotage and did not identify the vessels beyond saying they were of various nationalities.

Last week Iran had threatened that it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels within two months if terms for a new deal are not agreed on by then.

"Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against USA and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz", the warning read.

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