Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
An explosion rocked a Singapore-flagged oil tanker off the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Monday, the ship owner said, at the latest in a series of attacks on the kingdom’s energy infrastructure.
So far, no group has taken responsibility for the explosion on the tanker BW Rhein, but it is because Iran-backed Houthi rebels are stepping up cross-border attacks on Saudi targets in neighboring Yemen in retaliation for a five-year military campaign led by Riyadh.
“BW Rhine was hit by an external source while unloading in Jeddah … which led to an explosion and subsequent fire on board,” the owner of Singapore-based shipping company Hafnia said in a statement.
“The crew put out the fire with the assistance of the fire brigade and the tugs ashore and all 22 seafarers were reported without injuries,” she added.
The Saudi authorities did not immediately confirm the explosion outside Jeddah, an important port and distribution center for oil giant Saudi Aramco on the Red Sea.
Hafnia reported “hull damage” in the explosion, which occurred shortly after midnight Monday, and did not rule out the possibility of oil spill.
“It is possible that some oil has leaked from the ship but this has not been confirmed and the instrumentation is currently showing that the oil level on board is at the same level as it was before the incident,” Hafnia said.
Dryad Global, a London-based maritime intelligence company, also reported on the recent explosion, saying it struck a ship while “conducting operations inside the main tanker anchor in the Saudi port of Aramco Jeddah”.
However, the Dominican flag tanker Desert Rose or the Saudi flag Al Amal Al Saudi were identified as possible targets.
Series of attacks
The incident came after an explosion last month that shook a Greece-operated oil tanker docked in the southern port of Shuqaiq in Saudi Arabia. This attack was traced back to the Houthi rebels in Yemen by a Riyadh-led military coalition.
According to the Greek-based operator TMS Tankers, no injuries were reported in this explosion aboard the Maltese flag Agrari tanker.
Last month, the Houthi rebels said they had hit a facility operated by Saudi Aramco Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile. Aramco said the strike tore a hole in an oil tank, causing an explosion and fire.
The incidents, which highlight the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, stem from the Houthis escalating attacks on Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the military campaign in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia finds itself in a military swamp in Yemen, which has been involved in a conflict since the rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014 and conquered much of the north.
Riyadh led a coalition that intervened to support the internationally recognized government the following year, but the conflict has shown no sign of easing since then.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused regional rival Iran of supplying the Houthis with sophisticated weapons, which Tehran denies.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, were killed and millions displaced in the Yemen war, which the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)