An explosion on Wednesday rocked a Greek-operated oil tanker docked at Saudi Arabia’s port of Shuqaiq, Greek officials said, in an attack that a Riyadh-led military coalition blamed on Yemeni rebels.
The blast on the Maltese-flagged MT Agrari tanker follows a string of attacks by the Iran-linked rebels on Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure, highlighting the growing perils of a five-year military campaign led by the kingdom in Yemen.
The tanker was “attacked by an unknown source” while it was preparing to depart from the Red Sea port of Shuqaiq, its Greece-based operator TMS Tankers said, adding that no injuries were reported.
“The Agrari was struck about 1m above the waterline and has suffered a breach,” TMS Tankers said in a statement.
“It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries. No pollution has been reported,” it said.
An investigation was underway after Saudi Arabian authorities, including the coast guard, boarded the stricken vessel, it added.
There were 25 crew members onboard, including seven Greeks, a Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy official said.
“The explosion happened around 0300 local time, but the causes have not yet been identified,” the ministry official said.
The tanker was carrying no cargo when the blast occurred, the ministry added, dispelling any fears of an oil spill.
The Saudi Arabian-led military coalition confirmed that a commercial vessel sustained minor damage during what it described as a foiled “terrorist act.”
Without naming the vessel, it said that the incident occurred when an explosives-laden boat launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels was intercepted and destroyed.
The commercial vessel was damaged by shrapnel from the “booby-trapped boat,” the coalition was quoted as saying by Saudi Arabian state-run al-Ekhbariya television.
“The hostile acts of the Houthi militia threaten shipping lanes and global trade,” the coalition said, without offering details.
Dryad Global, a London-based maritime intelligence firm, said that unnamed sources within the coalition indicated the blast was the “result of a Houthi-launched water-borne improvised explosive device.”
“Vessels transiting the Red Sea area are reminded that regional conflicts exist whereby there is a realistic possibility that vessels of Saudi flag and those calling at southern Saudi ports are at moderate risk,” Dryad Global said in a report.
There was no immediate reaction from the Houthis.
The incident comes as the Iran-backed rebels step up attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi Arabian-led military campaign in Yemen.
On Monday, the Houthi rebels said they struck a plant operated by energy giant Saudi Aramco in the western city of Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile.
The strike, which underscores the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure and the rebel’s advancing arsenal, tore a hole in the roof of an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire.
Earlier this month, a fire broke out at a Saudi Arabian oil terminal off the southern province of Jizan after two explosives-laden boats launched by the rebels were intercepted by the coalition, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Energy said
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