Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Saboteurs attack Saudi oil vessels amid Middle East tensions

Saboteurs attack Saudi oil vessels amid Middle East tensions

A Norwegian-flagged vessel, two Saudi oil tankers and a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE's seven emirates, all suffered similar damage Sunday.

Two of the vessels belonged to Saudi Arabia, while the other two ships were the property of Norway and the UAE, the broadcaster said. It is the world's most important oil artery.

He emphasized the joint responsibility of the worldwide community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, as these incidents pose a danger to energy markets and the global economy.

INTERTANKO, an association of independent tanker owners and operators, said in a note that it has seen photos showing that "at least two ships have holes in their sides due to the impact of a weapon".

"The global community should carry out its responsibilities to prevent any parties trying to harm maritime security and safety, which would be considered a threat to worldwide safety and security", it added.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry in a separate statement voiced support for the UAE, the Middle East's trade and business hub.

Earlier on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi expressed "regret" toward Sunday's incident and called it "concerning".

Tensions have risen since Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored United States sanctions that have pushed Iran's economy into crisis. Even as the S&P 500 was down more than 2 percent during midday trading on Monday, Brent crude was up 1.5 percent. Gulf stock markets fell on Monday, with Dubai down 2.6 per cent and the Saudi index down over 2 per cent.

The Strait of Hormuz connects the Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Pipelines owned by the UAE and Saudi Arabia can't carry as much oil as tankers, and while Saudi Arabia and Iran have alternate seaports, their neighbors don't.

State media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident. With little information about the oil tanker attacks, the incident stoked fears of a worst-case scenario: a confrontation between the USA and Iran.

The incidents also come after the U.S. Maritime Administration warned in an advisory Iran could go after commercial ships and oil production facilities in the area.

The White House said that move was aimed at countering "clear indications" of threats from Iran to its forces there.

In response to the question "what can Iran and Turkey jointly do tackle USA sanctions?", the Turkish expert said that if the two countries bring their stances closer to each other and take a closer approach towards issues such as Iraq and Syria, they will be able to form a regional coalition and also will be able to reduce the effects of the external threats.

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