A state-owned Iranian vessel was hit by two blasts in what official sources describe as a terrorist attack. The attack against the Sabiti happened in the Gulf, about 60 miles from the Saudi port of Jeddah. There were no victims, but the ship did spill oil into the sea.
The tanker was headed to Syria to unload the crude. The attack took place at 05:00 AM local time (02:00 GMT).
— INTELSky (@Intel_Sky) 11 de octubre de 2019
The Sabiti in stable condition
Iranian state TV declared that the blast damaged two storage tanks onboard the vessel and caused the crude to leak into the Red Sea, near the port city of Jeddah.
The leak was later stopped, as local news agency IRNA informed.
“The ship and all its staff are now safe and sound, and only the ship’s body has been slightly damaged,” the National Iranian Oil Company said in a statement. “The ship’s technical experts and experts at the National Petroleum Corporation’s emergency room are investigating the cause and causes of the accident,” it adds.
In its statement, the Oil Corporation said the Sabiti suffered two different explosions at 05:00 AM and 05:20 AM, probably after being hit by missiles.
Iranian news agencies noted that the Sabiti was stable and that no crew members had been harmed and the leak was under control.
This strike against the Sabiti would be the first major attack on Iranian oil shipping in the Gulf.
The images published by Iran’s Oil Ministry appeared to show no visible damage to the Sabiti from its bridge, although they did not show the sides of the ship. Satellite images of the area did not show any smoke.
SHANA, the ministry’s news agency, said that no authority in the area responded to the ship’s distress calls. The Sabiti turned its tracking devices on for the last time on Friday, near the port city of Abbas. Iranian tankers are routinely turning their transponders off as U.S. sanctions are focusing on Iran crude sales.
Authorities presume it was a terrorist attack
Iranian state-owned news agencies said the Sabiti had been hit by a terrorist attack.
“Those behind the attack are responsible for the consequences of this dangerous adventure, including the dangerous environmental pollution caused,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi remarked.
“The details and factors behind this act will be investigated and will be announced after the results are reached,” he added.
This claim raises suspicion that the event could be retaliation over the attacks against two oil facilities owned by Saudi Aramco on September 14.
The United States and the United Kingdom attributed these attacks to state players in Iran, saying they were carried out directly or by rebel forces.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi described the attack as “a dangerous adventure,” warning that all responsibility will fall on those behind the blast.
Given that the SABITI was allegedly attacked by missiles, she’s moving a lot faster than her bigger sister HELM, which had a mechanical failure back in August. HELM is STILL nowhere near home more than 7 weeks later. Our commentary in the @planetlabs pic to avoid any misuse. Thx. pic.twitter.com/gNIjH7f19f
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️🛢 (@TankerTrackers) 11 de octubre de 2019
Iran has denied responsibility for all of these attacks. The United Nations has yet to publish a planned detailed assessment of the source of the September 14 incident even though UN inspectors visited the site a fortnight ago.
European and U.S. leaders said the likely source of the attack was Iran and not Houthi rebels based in Yemen.
The latest attacks on oil shipping started on May 12 when four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were attacked in the Gulf just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route.
U.S. and British officials pinned the blame on Iran, a charge Tehran denies. Another two tankers were hit on June 13. A week later Iran said it had shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, an attack that nearly led to a major reprisal by the Trump administration.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the 14 September drone attacks on Saudi Aramco plants in Abqaiq and Khurais, but the U.S. said the attacks came from the direction of Iran.
In search for a way out
French President Emmanuel Macron failed in his attempt to organize a meeting between Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump at the UN general assembly; given that the two parties could not reach an agreement on the sequencing of the compromises the two sides would have to take
Since then, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took a step forward as a possible mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The perception was that neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates – Iran’s main rivals in the Gulf – were looking to escalate the crisis by means of a military response to the Aramco incident.
Oil prices went up after the news. In the United States, the West Texas Intermediate grew by 1.8% to $54.51 per barrel. Meanwhile, Brent increased by 1.7% to $60.12 per barrel.
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