Oil Tanker Struck By Explosion at Saudi Port

State media in Saudi Arabia said a boat carrying explosives had deliberately struck the tanker in a “terrorist attack.” There are no reports of injuries.
December 14, 2020, 5:31pm
A Saudi Aramco employee gestures while standing near a missile-damaged silo, at the plant in Jeddah last month. Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images
A Saudi Aramco employee gestures while standing near a missile-damaged silo, at the plant in Jeddah last month. Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

An oil tanker transferring fuel at a port in Saudi Arabia was attacked in the early hours of Monday morning, state media said.

The official Saudi Press Agency said the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine was deliberately struck with a boat filled with explosives, causing a fire. 

The fire was extinguished and all 22 crew members were safely evacuated, the tanker’s owner Hafnia said

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No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which follows other incidents in the Red Sea.

“These acts of terrorism and vandalism, directed against vital installations, go beyond the kingdom and its vital facilities, to the security and stability of energy supplies to the world,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Saudi-owned oil facilities have come under repeated attacks, mainly by drones fired by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on the kingdom's oil production infrastructure. 

But this is the fourth incident in the past month at sea, which is opening a new frontier in the war in Yemen. It could further jeopardise the security of one of the main cargo and energy routes between Europe and Asia, via the Suez Canal.

Houthi rebels have gained access to cheaply made drones, and naval mines with the help of their unofficial Iranian allies, and the group has harassed neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through sporadic attacks on airports, oil fields, pipelines, and most recently ships and oil tankers.

On the 25th of November a Maltese-flagged oil tanker was hit by an explosion in the Red Sea. Its Greek operating company said the vessel had been attacked by an “unknown source.” While the Saudi government accused the Houthi rebels, the group didn't claim any responsibility.

A Saudi-led military intervention against the Houthis began in March 2015 when the rebels took over the capital Sanaa, forcing the country’s pro-Saudi president Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, a former field marshal who rose to power in 2011, to flee to Riyadh. He has since led a Yemeni government in exile from Saudi Arabia.

Yemen Was Already Facing the World's Worst Humanitarian Crisis, Then Coronavirus Came

The regional hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia has created a huge humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the region's poorest country, and their involvement in countries like Iraq and Syria has deepened internal turmoil.

Any oil leaks from the attack on the BW Rhine could cause damage to nearby fishing waters, which many Yemenis depend on in an already struggling country that has slid on the verge of famine in the past five years of war.

"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,” Hafnia’s statement said.