Sunday December 05, 2021

Explosion rocks oil tanker at Saudi port

December 15, 2020

RIYADH: A blast rocked a Singapore-flagged oil tanker at the Saudi port of Jeddah Monday, the vessel’s owner said, with the kingdom saying it was struck by an explosives-laden boat in a "terrorist" assault.

All 22 sailors aboard the tanker BW Rhine escaped unhurt after the blast struck just after midnight, Singapore-based shipping company Hafnia said, but it did not exclude the possibility of an oil spill.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for what marks the latest in a string of attacks on Saudi energy sector targets, but it comes as Iran-backed Huthirebels in neighbouring Yemen step up cross-border strikes against Saudi Arabia.

The vessel was "attacked by an explosive-laden boat", the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing an energy ministry spokesman who condemned the "terrorist" attack. "The incident did not result in any casualties, and there was no damage caused to the unloading facilities, nor any effect on supplies," SPA said, without specifying who was behind the assault.

Jeddah, the second biggest Saudi city, is home to a key Red Sea port and distribution centre for oil giant Saudi Aramco. Hafnia reported "hull damage" in the blast.

"It is possible that some oil has escaped from the vessel, but this has not been confirmed and instrumentation currently indicates that oil levels on board are at the same level as before the incident," it said.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said it was aware of an explosion and warned vessels in the area to exercise "extreme caution".

The incident comes after an explosion last month rocked a Greek-operated oil tanker docked at the southern Saudi port of Shuqaiq, an attack that a Riyadh-led military coalition blamed on Yemen's Huthi rebels.

No injuries were reported in that blast on the Maltese-flagged Agrari tanker, according to its Greece-based operator TMS Tankers, while Dryad Global said it was caused by a "water-borne improvised explosive device" launched by the Huthis.

Just days earlier, the Huthi rebels said they struck a plant operated by Aramco in Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile. Aramco said that strike tore a hole in an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire.