Saudi Arabia Says Tanker Attack Threatens World Oil Supply

Saudi Arabia warned that sabotage operations against two of its oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates could threaten the supply of oil to consumers all over the world.

As regional tensions continued to rise between the U.S., its allies and Iran, two tankers were damaged off the coast of the UAE to the east of the emirate of Fujairah, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reported Sunday.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the two tankers were targeted in a "sabotage attack" and sustained "significant damage to the structures." One of the ships was en route to a Saudi port to be loaded with crude oil to be sent to the U.S., al-Falih said. "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill," he added.

Al-Falih claimed the attack was designed to "undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world," CNN reported.

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry released a statement via the Saudi Press Agency, describing the incident as a "criminal act" that "poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and international peace and security." The ministry also expressed Saudi Arabia's support of the UAE "in all measures taken to safeguard its security and interests."

UAE officials said Sunday that four boats had been targeted in total, The Associated Press reported, though the officials did not elaborate or name any suspects. The UAE denied earlier reports from Lebanon's pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen satellite channel that seven oil tankers had been hit by an explosion in the Fujairah port on Sunday morning. The nation's official Emirates News Agency stated, "The operations at the port are going as normal."

The alleged sabotage came soon after the U.S. warned that Iran and its proxies could be planning to target maritime traffic in the region in response to escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran. Last week, National Security Adviser John Bolton said an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers would be sent to the region as a warning to Iran not to threaten the interests of the U.S. or its allies.

Following Sunday's reports, the U.S. Maritime Administration warned ships to exercise caution when traveling past Fujairah. The organization noted that the sabotage reports remain unconfirmed.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the apparent sabotage but denied any involvement.

Spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that the security of regional shipping and maritime transport was of great importance and called the developments "alarming and regrettable." According to the state-run IRNA news agency, Mousavi also warned against any "conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers" or "adventurism by foreigners" to undermine local stability.

Fujairah lies off the Strait of Hormuz—a vital waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. The route is key to the global oil industry, with around 20 percent of all oil traded worldwide moving through the channel, CNN noted. At its narrowest point, the Strait is only 30 miles wide.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait to international shipping in the event of a military confrontation with the U.S., which could cripple global oil supply.

Fujairah UAE Saudi Arabia sabotage Iran
This file photo shows a tanker at the oil terminal of Fujairah, UAE, during the inauguration ceremony of a dock for supertankers on September 21, 2016. As regional tensions continued to rise between the U.S., its allies and Iran, two tankers were damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates to the east of the emirate of Fujairah, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reported May 12. KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi Arabia Says Tanker Attack Threatens World Oil Supply | World