Iranian tanker struck in Red Sea near Saudi Arabia, changes course to Iran

Published: 13 October 2019 - 6:15 a.m.
By: Carla Sertin

An Iranian oil tanker was damaged off Saudi Arabia's Jeddah Port, Iran's state news agency reported. The tanker, SABITI, was hit by two blasts early on Friday morning and sustained damage on its main storage tank, the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) said.

NITC issued a statement saying that the blasts were probably caused by missile strikes, the crew are safe, and the ship is in stable condition with slight damage that is undergoing repair by the crew. Oil leakage from the ship was contained after the blasts.

It denied rumors implicating Saudi Arabia in the attacks, and noted that it is still investigating the source of the blasts. Sabiti is moving towards the Persian Gulf, and NITC said it would reach Iran by 22 October.

Maritime analytics firm Windward noted that Sabiti was behaving unusually prior to the attack; while it normally turns on its transmitter when it passes near the Suez Canal, as required by safety regulations, "the tanker's operational profile indicates it routinely turns off transmissions while sailing from the Persian Gulf to Suez (bound for Syria)," Winward tweeted, adding that it switched on its transmitter far away from Suez, prior to the attack. Its transmitter had been inactive for more than two months prior to the attack.

Early reports said that a different oil tanker, Sinopa, was attacked. This is apparently incorrect, but the vessel was laden with oil drifting in the Red Sea for three days prior to the attack on Sabiti.

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