A fully laden supertanker came under attack Tuesday in the Southern Red Sea while underway in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the European Union’s Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) and other maritime officials in the region have confirmed.
Details of the attack are still unclear, but the incident is likely to be related to the on-going conflict in Yemen, the EU NAVFOR said.
In an advisory, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said that a merchant vessel reported an explosion on April 3 at approximately 0915UTC in position 1429.3N 04211.2E in the Southern Red Sea. The cause of the explosion is unknown, the UKMTO advisory said.
The oil tanker has been identified as the Saudi Arabian-flagged MT Abqaiq, a 300,000 dwt Very Large Crude Carrier, which capable of carrying 2 million barrels of crude. The tanker is owned by Saudi shipping group Bahri.
Saudi media reported yesterday that the Saudi-led coalition said the oil tanker was in international waters when it came under “Houthi-Iranian attack” at around 1330 local time. A coalition warship conducted a “swift intervention” that repelled the attack.
The type of weapon used is not clear.
“As a result of that attack, the tanker was subjected to a slight but ineffective hit and it resumed its naval course northwards, escorted by a coalition warship,” Reuters reported the statement as saying.
EU NAVFOR confirmed Wednesday that the vessel continued underway and that the crew are safe and unharmed.
“In this case, [Combined Maritime Forces] and EU NAVFOR assess that the incident is likely to be related to the ongoing conflict in Yemen; however, no further activity with relation to the incident has been reported. EU NAVFOR confirms that the vessel continued underway and that the crew are safe and unharmed,” EU NAVFOR said.
Ships in the area have been warned to remain extremely vigilant and report any suspicious activity to MSCHOA and / or UKMTO.
— TankerTrackers.com? (@TankerTrackers) April 4, 2018
The Abqaiq is now believed to be continuing to Ain El-Sukhna, Egypt, where it is likely to discharge cargo at the SUMED transit pipeline, TankerTrackers reported.
A screenshot of Abqaiq’s current position is below:
“The United States is very concerned about the Houthis’ latest attempt to escalate the war in Yemen, this time by attacking a commercial vessel while it transited one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Bab al-Mandab, in international waters,” the White House said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
Shipowner Bahri confirmed the incident in a statement issued Thursday.
“The VLCC (very large crude carrier) suffered only minor damage and there were no injuries to our crew aboard. The cargo was unaffected and there was no loss of containment. The crude carrier successfully resumed her northward journey across the Red Sea,” Bahri said.