Riyadh, May 13: Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers came under attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), shortly after the latter said four of its vessels had been sabotaged amid rising tensions in the Gulf.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that the two Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of Fujairah. One of the two vessels was on its way to being loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to customers in the United States, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
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.
The report followed a statement by the UAE government late on Sunday that four commercial cargo ships were “sabotaged” off its eastern coast. The attack took place near to UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the Emirate of Fujairah, said the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
It was not clear whether the ships mentioned by Saudi Arabia and the UAE were part of the same incident.
The UAE Ministry said 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.
The incident came amid rising tensions in the Gulf as the US tightened sanctions on Iran’s crude exports. Washington has also been increasing its military assets in the Middle East in the face of what it regards as new threats from Tehran.
Fujairah is located close to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important waterway that connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea.
Hardliners in Iran have threatened to disrupt shipping through Hormuz.
The accusations of sabotage came less than 24 hours after the UAE government denied reports alleging that seven oil tankers were involved in an explosion in the port of Fujairah on Sunday.