Four vessels struck in reported sabotage attacks off UAE coast

UAE Navy boats have been pictured next to Al Marzoqah, a Saudi Arabian tanker which was reportedly "sabotaged". Credit: Reuters.

In a “sabotage” attack in the Gulf of Oman on 12 May, four commercial shipping vessels were embroiled, according to the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

In a statement, reported by the Emirates news agency WAM, the UAE described the attacks as “sabotage operations” that took place “near UAE territorial waters … east of Fujairah”.

There have been no reported fatalities or injuries among the ships’ crews, and no cargo from the four oil tankers was spilled.

The incident comes amid a current spike in tensions between Iran and Western powers. Fujairah port itself sits on the eastern side of the UAE peninsula, at the entrance from the Gulf of Oman into the Straits of Hormuz. The Straits are one of the world’s key shipping lanes and choke points, and has become an international security focus at times of tension between Iran and regional and international powers.

The ministry said that sabotage on commercial and civilian vessels is a serious development, and that relevant authorities were taking all necessary measures in response to the attacks, including co-operating with local and international bodies. No incidents had taken place within the port of Fujairah itself, with the port continuing to operate as normal.

According to a Reuters report on 13 May, the UAE subsequently identified the vessels as two Saudi Arabia-owned crude oil tankers, a UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge, and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker.

WAM listed the four ships as MT Al Marzoqah, MT Amjad, MT Andrea Victory, and MT A Michel. The first two ships are understood to be Saudi-registered. Andrea Victory is Norwegian-registered and owned by Thome Ship Management. A Michel is the UAE bunker barge.

The Reuters report added that the hull of Norwegian vessel had been holed at the waterline after being struck by an unknown object, and that divers were inspecting the ships.

Some international media reports suggested that other ships also had been targeted in the attacks. Another such ship is reported to have been the Dominica-flagged MT Miraj.

An assessment of the various reports and statements released suggests a degree of uncertainty as to the precise location of the attacks. There have also been no suggestions – or claims – of responsibility for carrying out the attacks.

This week’s attacks prompted regional and international actors to stress the need for the international community to continue to work together to secure safe passage for maritime traffic through the region.