Two Saudi oil tankers came under “sabotage attack” off the UAE coast, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday, quoting the Saudi energy minister.
“Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf,” SPA cited Khalid Al Falih as saying.
The UAE on Sunday said the sabotage targeted four boats, without elaborating or naming suspects. It came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the nearby Emirati port in Fujairah, which bunkers and ships oil.
He said one tanker was en route to the kingdom to be loaded with Saudi crude oil to be sent to the United States.
He did not identify the tankers.
He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
Saudi state TV cited a source in the Saudi foreign ministry as saying that the attacks constitute a “dangerous threat to the safety of navigation and affects negatively regional and international security”.
The US has issued a new alert to maritime traffic over alleged “acts of sabotage” of ships off the coast of the UAE amid heightened regional tensions between American and Iran.
The US Maritime Administration, which stressing the incidents had not been confirmed, warned shippers early on Monday to exercise caution when travelling past Fujairah, a port city on the eastern edge of the UAE on the Gulf of Oman.
It gave co-ordinates of the alleged sabotage, putting it just north of Fujairah.
No one was hurt and Abu Dhabi called on world powers to help keep maritime traffic safe.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi expressed concern at the event, warning against attempts to undermine the stability of international maritime transport, the IRNA news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned the attack off the UAE coast in a post on Twitter.
“We condemn the acts of sabotage which targeted commercial and civilian vessels near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates,” the ministry wrote.
The Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack and stressed the need for the international community to bear the responsibility of maritime trade around the world.
Secretary General of the GCC, Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, also addressed the attack, describing it as “a serious escalation which demonstrates evil intents by those who planned and carried it out, undermining the safety of maritime traffic in the region and threatening the safety and lives of those on board”.
Fujairah port is the only terminal in the UAE located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass, and which Iran has repeatedly threatened to close in case of a military confrontation with Washington.
The small emirate has an oil terminal and a pipeline that delivers crude oil from Abu Dhabi which sits on the majority of UAE oil reserves.
The Pentagon said Friday that it was deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran.
The increasing tensions come as Tehran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers.
Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.