DRYAD UPDATED An oil tanker came under attack while at a Saudi Arabian terminal in the Red Sea about 125 miles north of the country’s border with Yemen, according to the vessel’s owner.
The Agrari, a so-called Aframax-class vessel able to haul about 700,000 barrels of oil, was holed about 1 meter above the waterline in the incident, a statement distributed on behalf of the carrier’s owner said. The incident took place as the ship was preparing to leave a berth at the Shuqaiq facility, having finished unloading its cargo, it said.
It wasn’t clear who launched the attack and no one claimed responsibility. A few hours after the incident, state TV reported that Saudi-led coalition forces were destroying an explosives-laden boat and a commercial vessel was damaged in the process.
The incident wasn’t at a crude oil export facility and will almost certainly have zero effect Saudi Arabia’s capacity to produce or export oil. It follows a separate low-level attack on Monday, in which Yemen’s Houthis fired a missile at a Saudi Aramco fuel depot in Jeddah, the kingdom’s second-biggest city. The resulting blaze was extinguished in 40 minutes.
Houthi officials didn’t acknowledge involvement, or offer an account of what might have happened to the Agrari.
“There’s definitely an uptick of attacks from the Yemen side of the border onto Saudi Arabia to try and attempt to send a signal that it’s not just in the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf that Iran has the ability to undermine Saudi oil interests and naval activities,” said Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa at Eurasia Group, which advises clients on political risk.
The Agrari appears to have been delivering fuel oil from Europe, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg. Crew on the Agrari are safe, no pollution has been reported, and the tanker itself is stable, according to the statement, which was distributed by MTI Network for TMS Tankers Ltd.
There have been signs of the ongoing tension between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in recent days. A Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said Tuesday they destroyed five Houthi mines in the Red Sea, according to Saudi state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV. The mines were Iranian made, the coalition report said. It said the “hostile Houthi actions supported by Iran threaten maritime security.”
The vessel has been boarded by local authorities, including the Coast Guard and an investigation is under way.
“At this stage we don’t know if this is a case of a sea mine striking the vessel or whether this is a direct attack,” said Munro Anderson, a partner at maritime security firm Dryad Global, adding that there are still several of old mines present in the Red Sea. The latest event is “well within” expected risk levels for the region where it happened, he said.
Dryad Reports that the Maltese-flagged Crude Tanker vessel AGRARI IMO:9389083 has been involved in an incident at the Al Shuqaiq anchorage.
It understood that the vessel was struck approximately 1m above the water line. Further reporting by TankerTrackers.com has indicated that the incident occurred at some point on the 23rd November 20.
Whilst details remain unclear it is apparent that the incident has resulted in a partial breach of the vessel structure resulting in a limited oil spill.
This is the second such reported incident in the region since a Greek-owned, Malta-flagged Aframax tanker reported being struck by a sea mine whilst loading at the Rudum Terminal off the Yemeni south coast on the the 03 October 20.
Un-named and un-confirmed sources within the Arab Coalition in Yemen have indicated that the incident was the result of a Houthi launched Water Born IED (WBIED). Attempts at targeting vessels and ports via such methods are reported with relative frequency with the latest report indicating that Saudi forces interdicted and destroyed an attempted WBIED targeting the Saudi port of Jizan on the 13th November 20.
Incidents within the Red Sea have previously occurred however remain uncommon. Notably these have involved the targeting of the Saudi flagged vessels in transit by Houthi Rebels in the vicinity of the Hanish islands. Previous incidents within the Red Sea have also involved the targeting of the Iranian flagged MT Sabiti in 2019 which alleged to have been struck off the Saudi coast of Jeddah. In addition Saudi naval forces have reported the recent dismantling of Houthi and Iranian mines with the most recent reports on the 14th and 24th November 20.
Whilst it is clear an incident has occurred it is vital that this is held in context. There are some 33,000 transits of the region with incidents almost exclusively limited to those vessels of Saudi flag and those involving vessels calling within Southern Saudi ports.
The most recent incident is commensurate with a vessel being struck by an explosive device. Whether this is the result of deliberate targeting or drifting sea mines remains impossible to say at this stage without further verification however early indications are that this was a deliberate attack commensurate with known targeting and attack methodologies.
It is currently assessed that this latest incident does not fundamentally alter the risk profile for vessels transiting the region. Vessels transiting the Red Sea area are reminded that regional conflicts exist where by there is a realistic possibility that vessels of Saudi flag and those calling at southern Saudi Ports are at MODERATE risk indicating that there is a realistic possibility of incident but it remains unlikely.