Monday, December 14, 2020

Another Oil Tanker Attacked Whilst in Saudi Arabian Waters

Vessels Put On High Alert
Shipping News Feature

SAUDI ARABIA – There can be few more terrifying sounds for the crew of a vessel than that of an unexpected explosion. When the ship on which you are serving is an oil tanker, laden with 60,000 tonnes of gasoline, the stress levels can only be imagined.

Such was the case on the BW Rhine just after midnight as the ship was discharging in the Port of Jeddah today (14 December). The Singaporean flagged 76,500 dwt ship, one of the Hafnia fleet, apparently suffered an attack which caused a fire after the explosion.

At the time of writing no group has claimed responsibility but locally it is believed to be an action by the Houthi group which is still engaged in fighting with UN backed forces in Yemen. The Saudi led coalition has been engaged there, less than 400 miles from Jeddah, for five years. Houthi forces are thought to have been behind a variety of attacks on Saudi concerns for the past year.

We have featured previously the flow of munitions to the Shiite group, support known to have come from Iran, and the Houthis are believed to have been behind another attack just three weeks previously, again upon a Greek operated tanker in the oil terminal at Al Shuqaiq. That attack was by way of a limpet mine, attached above the waterline whilst the latest seems to have been using some sort of craft driven at the ship, possibly remotely.

That was the tactic in January when attacking the Saudi naval frigate al-Madinah while in April it was a missile strike on the 330,000 dwt VLCC Abqaiqas she passed through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait with over 2 million tonnes of crude aboard. Additionally of course we have witnessed a series of land based attacks on oil production facilities, including the drone attack which cut Saudi oil production by around 50%.

That attack meant a jump in crude prices and sure enough today’s attack seemed to have the same effect, albeit on a lesser scale. What is certain is that these attacks are intensifying, and it is surely only a matter of time until we witness some truly horrendous consequences. As we go to press the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) site carries a report of another possible explosion in or around Jeddah Port.

Today’s attack saw only a small amount of oil which was thought to have escaped from the BW Rhine, and there were no serious injuries to the twenty two strong crew. Time however is the friend of the attacker and all ships have been warned to take extra precautions whilst in the area.