Second tanker attacked in the Saudi Red Sea in three weeks

Paul Wallace, Sharon Cho, Verity Ratcliffe and Nourhan Samra December 14, 2020
Jeddah Islamic Port, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah Islamic Port, Saudi Arabia

(Bloomberg) --A ship was hit by an explosion at the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah, as attacks in the Red Sea mount.

While there were no casualties reported in Monday’s incident, it comes just three weeks after an oil tanker was damaged, possibly by a mine, at the Saudi terminal of Shuqaiq and Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed a missile strike on a Saudi Aramco fuel depot in Jeddah.

Tensions in the area have risen as the U.S., a Saudi ally, ramps up sanctions on Iran, which backs the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war.

Tanker BW Rhine, which carries refined products, was struck by an external source while discharging at Jeddah at about 12:40 a.m. local time on Monday, according to a statement from its owner, Hafnia. The Singapore-flagged vessel immediately ceased all discharge operations and the fire was extinguished without any injuries to the 22 crew members, it said.

“It is possible that some oil has escaped from the vessel,” the statement read. “But this has not been confirmed and instrumentation currently indicates that oil levels on board are at the same level as before the incident.”

Brent crude rose 1% to $50.49 a barrel by 9:54 a.m. in London, paring earlier gains of as much as 1.7%.

“It’s an isolated incident and therefore we don’t need any significant change in mentality or activity,” Kevin Wright, an analyst at data intelligence firm Kpler, said in an interview with Dubai-based consultant Gulf Intelligence. “We will continue to see these pinpricks but they have limited impact.”

Houthi Mines

Refined-product tanker BW Rhine
Refined-product tanker BW Rhine

The Houthis have previously used sea mines to attack ships in Saudi Arabian waters. The Shia group been fighting Yemen’s United Nations-backed government since 2014. A Saudi-led coalition intervened a year later on the side of the government.

BW Rhine loaded gasoline at the Saudi port of Yanbu on Dec. 8 before sailing south to Jeddah, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest city, is about 370 miles (595 kilometers) from the Yemeni border.

The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, which is linked to the British navy, said a ship had been hit on Sunday but didn’t name it or specify the timing. It advised vessels in that part of the Red Sea to “exercise extreme caution.”

Spokespeople for the Saudi Ports Authority and the kingdom’s energy ministry didn’t immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

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