A Singapore-flagged oil tanker was hit by an explosion off Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jiddah. According to reports, the explosion took place because of an external source. All 22 sailors on board escaped without injury, but there might be some chances of an oil leak.
A statement from the Hafnia indicates that the vessel was “hit from an external source whilst conducting discharge operations at Jeddah. This resulted in fire from the explosion which was extinguished with the vessel has hull damaged. All 22 crew aboard were unharmed. The Master immediately ceased all discharge operations and enacted emergency procedures onboard.
The crew extinguished the fire with assistance from the shore fire brigade and tug boats. Hull damage has occurred at 5P WBT (water ballast tank 5 on the port side) and 4P COT (cargo tank 4 on the port side).
It is possible that some oil might have escaped from the vessel, but this has not been confirmed and instrumentation currently indicates that oil levels on board are at the same level as before the incident.
Cooling procedures and inerting of cargo space have been initiated to avoid reignition of fire. Ship stability is being assessed before proceeding with any further operations.
BW Rhine is owned and operated by Hafnia.
Hafnia has activated its shore-based emergency response team. All relevant authorities have been advised of the incident and Hafnia is working with them to ensure the ongoing security of the crew, vessel and environment.
Previous incidents have involved the use of Waterborn IED against vessels with the latest attack occurring at the Port of Al Shuqaiq on the 23rd November 20.
Attempts at targeting vessels and ports via such methods are reported with the relative frequency with the previous reporting indicating that Saudi forces interdicted and destroyed an attempted WBIED targeting the Saudi port of Jizan on the 13th November 20.
Additional incidents have involved vessels being struck by drifting sea-mines with Saudi naval forces having reportedly destroyed Houthi and Iranian mines on the 14th and 24th November 20 respectively. In addition, such an incident was reported to have occurred against the Greek-owned, Malta-flagged Aframax tanker whilst loading at the Rudum Terminal off the Yemeni south coast on the 03 October 20.
Incidents within the Red Sea have previously occurred however remain uncommon. Notably, these have involved the targeting of the Saudi flagged vessels in transit by Houthi Rebels in the vicinity of the Hanish islands. Previous incidents within the Red Sea have also involved the targeting of the Iranian flagged MT Sabiti in 2019 offshore Jeddah.
This latest incident remains unclear however the presence of Houthi rebels offshore and 300nm north of their usual area of operations would represent a fundamental shift in both targeting capabilities and intent. If the incident is determined to be the result of malicious intent, it remains unlikely that such an incident was perpetrated by Houthi rebels targeting vessels off Jeddah with a methodology similar to that seen offshore Al Shuqaiq and Jizan.
If indeed the vessel has been targeted by an explosive device it remains a realistic possibility that the vessel was targeted via the presence of limpet mines, similar to that seen deployed by Iranian forces within the Gulf of Oman in 2019.