Riyadh, May 13 : Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in attacks it described as posing a threat to the security of global oil supplies.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that the incident near Fujairah port, in the Gulf just outside the Strait of Hormuz, caused “significant damage” to the ships, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The UAE said four ships were targeted but there were no casualties.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the “acts of sabotage” and expressed solidarity with the UAE, the SPA reported.
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 customers in the US.
The news agency didn’t mention casualties or oil spills, but said there had been “significant damage to the structures of the two vessels” in attacks it described as “posing a threat to the security of global oil supplies”.
The Saudi Minister called on the international community to protect maritime navigation and oil tanker security to prevent “adverse consequences” for energy markets and the global economy.
In addition to the two Saudi-owned tankers, the third impacted vessel flew the UAE flag, according to Fujairah Port’s General Manager Captain Mousa Murad. The fourth ship flew the Norwegian flag, a UAE National Media Council official said.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged sabotage or offer any indication as to who might be responsible.
It added that authorities were working with local and international bodies to investigate the incident, which it described as a “dangerous development”. It said there were no injuries or deaths.
Iran, which borders the Strait of Hormuz, called the incident “worrisome and dreadful” and called for a full investigation.
Tensions are high in the region, through which about a fifth of the oil that is consumed globally passes. The incident comes as the US has tightened sanctions on Iran’s crude exports and has also been increasing its military assets in the Middle East in the face of what it regards as new threats from Tehran.
In April, Iran threatened to “close” the Strait of Hormuz if it was prevented from using the waterway following Washington’s decision to end exemptions from sanctions for major Iranian oil importers.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled a planned visit to Russia on Monday and flew to Brussels for talks on Iran with his counterparts from the UK, Germany and France.
Last week, the US Maritime Administration issued an advisory warning that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting commercial vessels and oil production infrastructure in the region.