Oil tanker hit by 'external source' in Saudi Arabia

World Monday 14/December/2020 16:49 PM
By: DW
Oil tanker hit by 'external source' in Saudi Arabia

The owner of the BW Rhine oil tanker said on Monday that all 22 sailors on board escaped without injury after an explosion and fire while the ship was discharging in port.

"BW Rhine has been hit from an external source whilst discharging at Jiddah ... causing an explosion and subsequent fire on board," the Singapore-based shipping company Hafnia said in a statement.

Hafnia warned that it was possible that some oil had leaked from the site of the blast.

The announcement suggested another case of an oil tankercoming under attack in the port at Jiddah after a mine attack last month that damaged a tanker, which Saudi authorities blamed on Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an organization under Britain's royal navy, urged ships in the area to exercise caution and said investigations were ongoing.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, also reported the blast. No one immediately offered a cause.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from a news agency.

Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have used sea mines before in their long war against a Saudi-led coalition. However, the Houthis have not commented on last month's attack.

Dryad Global said if it was the Houthis behind the blast early on Monday, it "would represent a fundamental shift in both targeting capabilities and intent."

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world.

Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents that change by the season, and the area has previously been mined.