U.S. Condemns Houthi Strike on Saudi Tanker

Damage to the Abqaiq's hull (SPA)

Published Apr 4, 2018 2:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed reports of a Houthi rebel attack on a merchant vessel near Hudaydah, a Yemeni port near the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandeb. Houthi forces claimed that the attack was a missile strike, and Saudi sources said that the vessel was a Saudi tanker. 

"Yesterday’s attack coincides with the UN’s High-Level Pledging Event in Geneva, where the Saudi-led Coalition’s [sic] contributed $930 million," Sanders said in a statement. "In contrast, the Iranian regime continues to perpetuate the conflict and provide destabilizing weapons to the Houthis. We call on the Houthis to cease further escalation and demonstrate their commitment to a peace process by engaging in constructive dialogue."

The U.S. intelligence community asserts that Iran provides the Houthi side with weaponry, including missile technology, in its battle with the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's government. The United States and Britain supply arms, training and related services to the Saudi coalition, including in-flight refueling for Saudi warplanes during unspecified military operations.

Houthi forces said in a statement that the attack on the Saudi tanker was in retaliation for a Saudi airstrike on the port city of Hudaydah earlier this week, which killed at least seven children and five adults. The charitable NGO Unicef confirmed local accounts of civilian fatalities. A Saudi coalition spokesman did not deny the widespread reports, and said that they would be fully investigated. 

Tanker identified as Saudi-owned VLCC

On Wednesday, EUNAVFOR identified the vessel targeted as the 300,000 dwt Saudi-owned tanker Abqaiq, and said that the crew was unharmed after the incident. As of Wednesday evening local time, AIS data showed that the Abqaiq was in the Red Sea, headed north for Sokhna, Egypt. 

A Saudi Press Agency photo (top) showed hull damage above the waterline on the starboard side forward. In the image, her bottom paint is not visible, suggesting that she is in laden condition. AIS data shows her port of departure as Ras Tanura, a Saudi Aramco petroleum loading terminal on the Persian Gulf.