Suspected missile strikes hit an Iranian oil tanker off the Saudi coast yesterday, its owner said, the first Iranian vessel targeted since a spate of attacks in the Gulf Washington blamed on Tehran.
The National Iranian Tanker Company said the hull of the Sabiti was hit by two separate explosions off the Saudi port of Jeddah, saying they were “probably caused by missile strikes”.
Oil prices surged more than two percent on the news, which raised fresh concerns about Middle East supply with tensions still high after last month’s attacks on Saudi facilities onshore.
In those attacks, two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil installations were hit, wiping out five percent of global production.
“This clearly puts fuel on the Mideast fire,” SEB commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop told AFP.
“After the attack on Saudi a few weeks ago... it’s not a matter of if we get new comparable events -- but when, and how much.”
The National Iranian Tanker Company said the hull of the vessel was hit by two separate explosions about 100 kilometres (60 miles) off the Saudi coast, which damaged two of its tanks on the starboard side.
It identified the tanker as the Sabiti and said the blasts were “probably caused by missile strikes” but denied media reports that they originated from Saudi territory.
“All the ship’s crew are safe and the ship is stable too,” NITC said, adding those on board were trying to repair the damage.
It added the ship is slowly moving back towards the Gulf.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the tanker was attacked “from a location close to the corridor it was passing, east of the Red Sea.”
Oil was leaking from the tanker into the waters of the Red Sea, it added.
According to ship tracking service TankerTrackers, the Sabiti is fully laden with one million barrels and has declared the Gulf as its destination.