The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels were hit by sabotage near the emirate of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
The UAE gave no details on the nature of the sabotage or who was behind it. It said there were no casualties and operations at Fujairah port were normal.
The strait, a vital global oil and gas shipping route, separates the Gulf states and Iran, which has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the U.S. military’s presence in the region.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement that one of the two Saudi vessels attacked was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude from Ras Tanura port for delivery to state-owned Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States.
The attack did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill but caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels, said the statement carried on state news agency SPA.
Trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi vessels as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah. National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) did not respond to a request for comment.
Falih said the attack aimed to undermine maritime freedom and “security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.”
“The international community has a joint responsibility to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets and the danger they pose to the global economy,” he said.
The U.S. Maritime Administration said in an advisory on Sunday that the incidents off Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, have not been confirmed and urged caution when transiting the area. It said “the precise means of attack or sabotage is unknown.”
Earlier this month, the Maritime Administration warned that U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through key Middle East waterways could be targeted by Iran in one of the threats to U.S. interests posed by Tehran.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman called the incidents on Sunday to ships near the coast of Fujairah “worrisome and dreadful,” and asked for an investigation into the matter.