Explosion rocks Greek-operated tanker in Saudi port

Saudi Arabia-led coalition confirms vessel off the coast of Shuqaiq has suffered minor damage from shrapnel.

Map of Al Shuqaiq, Saudi Arabia

An explosion has rocked a Greek-operated tanker docked at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Shuqaiq, in an attack that a Saudi-led military coalition blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The owners of the Maltese-flagged tanker Agrari tanker said on Wednesday it was “attacked by an unknown source” while it was preparing to depart from Shuqaiq.

“The Agrari was struck about one metre (three feet) above the waterline and has suffered a breach,” said TMS Tankers, the vessel’s Greece-based owner.

“It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries. No pollution has been reported.”

A Greek ministry press official said the tanker was flying a Maltese flag and there were 25 crew members onboard including seven Greeks.

The tanker was carrying no cargo when the explosion happened, the ministry added.

British maritime security company Ambrey said the ship was damaged by a mine while berthed at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant (SSPP).

“The explosion took place in port limits and punctured the hull of the vessel, which is in ballast,” Ambrey said in a statement, adding that the vessel had arrived at Shuqaiq on Monday.

An investigation was under way after Saudi authorities, including the coastguard, boarded the stricken vessel, it added.

Foiled ‘terrorist act’

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthis said the vessel suffered minor damage from the blast, in what it described as a foiled “terrorist act”, Al Arabiya reported.

Without naming the vessel, the coalition said the incident occurred when an explosives-laden boat launched by the Houthis was intercepted and destroyed.

The commercial vessel was damaged by shrapnel from the “booby-trapped boat”, the coalition was quoted as saying by the Saudi state-run Al-Ekhbariya television.

“The hostile acts of the Houthi militia threaten shipping lanes and global trade,” the coalition said.

So far, there has been no comment from the Houthis.

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the world’s energy supplies.

Rising tensions

The explosion comes amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, who recently intensified cross-border attacks on the kingdom.

On Monday, a cruise missile fired by the rebels struck an oil facility in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.

On Tuesday, the coalition said it had destroyed five naval mines allegedly laid by Houthis in the southern Red Sea.

Two weeks ago, a fire near a floating platform belonging to the Jazan oil products terminal was contained with no injuries.

That fire was the result of another attempted Houthi attack, in which the coalition intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea.

The military coalition has been battling the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015.

Despite its superior firepower and an investment worth billions of dollars in military hardware, the coalition has struggled to oust the rebels from their northern strongholds, including the capital, Sanaa.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Source: News Agencies