Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers were among those attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and described it as an attempt to undermine the security of crude supplies amid tensions between the United States and Iran.
The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels were sabotaged near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. It did not describe the nature of the attack or say who was behind it.
The UAE on Monday identified the vessels as very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah, both owned by Saudi shipping firm Bahri. The other two were UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge A. Michel and Norwegian-registered oil products tanker MT Andrew Victory.
Thome Ship Management said its MT Andrew Victory was “struck by an unknown object”. Footage seen by Reuters showed a hole in the hull at the waterline with the metal torn open inwards.
A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting damaged ships. The UAE’s state news agency said Fujairah port was operating normally.
Iran, which is embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the U.S. military’s presence in the region, moved to distance itself on Monday.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the incidents “worrisome and dreadful” and asked for an investigation into the matter.
A senior Iranian lawmaker said “saboteurs from a third country” could be behind it, after saying on Sunday the incident showed the security of Gulf states was fragile.
The United States has limited information as yet about who may have been responsible for the attacks, said a U.S. official familiar with American intelligence on the incident and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned of the risks of “a conflict happening by accident” with an unintended escalation between Washington and Tehran over an unraveling nuclear deal.