RIYADH: Two Saudi oil tankers were damaged in a “sabotage attack” off the United Arab Emirates coast, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday, quoting the Saudi energy minister.
“Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf,” SPA cited Khalid al-Falih as saying.
The incident comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the United States which has strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged threats from Tehran.
It also comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Brussels to discuss Iran with French, British and German officials.
Falih said the sabotage did not result in any casualties or an oil spill but “it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
One of the two tankers was on its way to be loaded with crude oil from Saudi Ras Tanura oil terminal in the Gulf for customers in the United States, the minister said.
UAE did not name who was responsible for the Sunday morning attacks on the vessels but warned that “carrying out acts of sabotage on commercial and civilian vessels and threatening the safety and lives of those on board is a serious development”.
No one was hurt and Abu Dhabi called on world powers to help keep maritime traffic safe.
Fujairah port is the only terminal in the UAE located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass, and which Iran has repeatedly threatened to close in case of a military confrontation with the United States.
The small emirate has an oil terminal and a pipeline that delivers crude oil from Abu Dhabi which sits on the majority of UAE oil reserves.
The Pentagon said Friday that it was deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran.
The increasing tensions come as Tehran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers.
Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has re-imposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.