Saudi Arabia has said two of its oil tankers were attacked by saboteurs near the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reports, adding a statement by the UAE that a total four vessels were attacked off its coast at the port of Fujairah.
The AP quoted a Saudi statement as saying the damages sustained by the two tankers were “significant”.
Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE, however, said who was or is most likely to have been behind the attack. The UAE also did not provide any details about the attack saying only that there were no casualties and the port of Fujairah was operating as usual.
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid- al-Falih said in a statement that one of the two vessels attacked at the Fujairah port was en route to Ras Lanuf where it was supposed to load crude oil for the United States.
However, TankerTrackers.com co-founder Samir Madani in a tweet said there were three Saudi tankers docked at Fujairah: one empty after returning from China, another one returning from the Saudi port of Yanbu loaded, and a small petrochemicals tanker.
The AP notes the reports of the attacks came on the heels of a warning issued by the United States to ships in the Persian Gulf regarding possible attacks by “Iran or its proxies” on vessels in the area. The warning came as a U.S. aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers are traveling to the Gulf in pre-emptive response to a possible Iranian move in the region after Tehran once again said it would close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. tries to squeeze its oil exports further. Related: Chinese Oil Majors Backtrack On Pledge To Buy Iranian Oil
The Strait of Hormuz is a major oil chokepoint accounting for some 17 million barrels of crude daily. The strait is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, but is wide and deep enough to handle even the world’s largest tankers. Alternate routes for oil normally going through this strait are several pipelines, but capacity is limited. Most of the oil exports traveling through this strait are bound for Asian markets.
Iran has threatened to close it off more than once during the years but has never before acted on this threat. However, if the tension between Tehran, its Arab neighbors, and Washington continues to deepen this might change, effectively starting yet another war in the Middle East.
Later in the day, Iran condemned the attack on the vessels in the UAE and called for an investigation into the event, Reuters reported.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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