International shipping has been placed on high alert after four tankers were “sabotaged” in waters just off Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The ships – which include a VLCC and an LR2 belonging to Saudi Arabia’s Bahri, were attacked on Sunday morning.
Commenting on the attacks to the two Bahri ships Amjad and Al Marzoqah, Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-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.”
The “sabotage” as UAE authorities have described it comes as tensions between Iran and the US spike with America deploying an aircraft carrier to the region.
It has emerged that just minutes before the attack was revealed yesterday, the US Maritime Administration warned shipowners to exercise caution when travelling past Fujairah. The same body, part of the US Transport Department, had warned last Thursday that Iran could target commercial sea traffic.
“Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against US and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz,” the warning read.
“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf.”
The identity of the other two ships has yet to be revealed although multiple local sources suggest they are the Dominica-flagged general purpose tanker Miraj and UAE-flagged bunker tanker A. Michel.
Tanker association INTERTANKO said in a note that it has seen pictures showing that “at least two ships have holes in their sides due to the impact of a weapon”.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the two Bahri vessels had been intending to cross into the Persian Gulf. “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,” the agency reported Monday.