Four Tankers Sabotaged off Fujairah
Four tankers were sabotaged off the port of Fujairah over the weekend, according to officials in the UAE.
The vessels include two Saudi tankers, identified by Reuters as the Amjad and the Al Marzoqah; the Thome Group-managed, Norwegian-flagged Andrea Victory; and a UAE-based bunker barge, the A Michel.
Saudi Arabia's energy ministry said that the Saudi vessels sustained "significant" damage, but did not decribe the nature of the attack. Photos of the Andrea Victory show a large gash on her transom, right at the waterline. Thome has confirmed that the Victory's crew are unharmed and that the vessel's stability is not compromised.
Saudi Arabia's minister of energy said that the attacks on the Saudi tankers occurred at 0600 hours on Sunday. “One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States. Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels," the minister said.
In a statement to state-owned media, the Saudi foreign ministry described the attacks were a "dangerous threat to the safety of navigation and [affect] negatively regional and international security."
Fujairah is a strategically important port, both for its status as a bunkering hub and for its location on the seaward side of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow choke point between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The strait has been a friction point for decades, and the growing tensions between Iran and the United States center on this waterway. Iran has threatened to close the strait to shipping if the U.S. does not lift stringent sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and the U.S. recently warned of an increased risk of attack on American shipping.
Iran denied any involvement in last weekend's attacks off Fujairah and suggested that they could have been perpetrated by an outside actor. “The explosions of Fujairah port could have been carried out by saboteurs from a third country who seek instability in the region,” said Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, speaking to Iranian state media.
Falahatpisheh was the only government source to describe last weekend's incident as a series of "explosions." Thome Group said that the Andrea Victory was damaged after she was "struck by an unknown object.”
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Energy characterized the incident as an attempt to affect oil shipping. "The Department of Energy is aware of efforts to disrupt oil shipping as reported by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Department is monitoring the oil markets, and is confident they remain well-supplied," said Department of Energy press secretary Shaylyn Hynes.