[Updated] Tanker Suffers Explosion Off Saudi Port of Jeddah

Port of Jeddah (file image courtesy Kompsat 2 / ESA)

Published Dec 13, 2020 9:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

[Updated] A tanker has experienced an explosion at the main anchorage of the port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to maritime security consultancy Dryad Global. 

The identity of the vessels was not immediately clear. An initial report from Dryad indicated that the vessel was either the UAE-owned 100,000 dwt crude tanker Desert Rose or the Saudi-flagged bunkering tanker Al Amal Al Saudi, owned by Saudi Arabia's National Bunkering Company. Both vessels were still at anchor off Jeddah and broadcasting AIS on Sunday evening.

On Monday, BW Group subsidiary Hafnia confirmed the identity of the vessel as the 2008-built product tanker BW Rhine. During cargo operations, the vessel sustained hull damage in an "external explosion," the company reported.

“The Master immediately ceased all discharge operations and enacted emergency procedures onboard. The crew have extinguished the fire with assistance from the shore fire brigade and tug boats, and all 22 seafarers have been accounted for with no injuries,” said Hafnia in a statement Monday. 

The cause of the blast is not yet known, but Dryad Global suggested that it may have been a limpet mine attack. 

"If indeed the vessel has been targeted by an explosive device it remains a realistic possibility that the vessel was targeted via the presence of limpet mines, similar to that seen deployed by Iranian forces within the Gulf of Oman in 2019," Dryad Global assessed.

Several attacks have occurred along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast in recent months, but none as far north as Sunday's incident. On November 23, the merchant tanker Agrari was struck by an explosive device at the port of Al Shuqaiq; the incident has been widely attributed to a floating mine or waterborne IED, likely deployed by Houthi rebel forces in Yemen. Saudi forces reportedly thwarted an attempted explosive device attack at the port of Jizan on November 13, and a Maltese-flagged tanker is believed to have been struck by a floating mine at the Rudum oil terminal on Yemen's southern coastline on October 3.