Suspected rocket attack on Iranian oil tanker

Picture aboard Sabiti – allegedly taken on Friday – was published by Iranian state TV after earlier reports of a fire. Credit: Reuters

An Iranian oil tanker has been hit by two suspected rockets in the early hours of Friday 11 October in the Red Sea off the coast of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian tanker involved in the supposed attack was originally identified by Iranian state TV as the oil tanker Sinopa; however, it was later confirmed by the National Iranian Oil Company that the vessel involved was the Iranian-owned Sabiti.

According to a statement issued by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), the ships’ hull sustained two separate explosions. The first strike occurred at 05:00 and the second at 05:30 (02:00-02:30 GMT).

The NITC said, “All the ship’s crew are safe and the ship is stable too … there is no fire onboard the ship and the ship is completely stable.”

However, the vessel’s two main storage tanks are said to have been damaged in the attack, causing an oil spill in the Red Sea. The extent of this spillage is unknown.

According to some Iranian news outlets, the incident is being treated as a terrorist attack, although at the time of publication no group had claimed responsibility.

According to maritime analytics firm Windward, it is common for NITC ships to turn off their AIS systems to either evade sanctions or avoid detection, This move is known as “going dark”. Windward, which has been tracking the vessel, told SAS that Sabiti appeared to be sailing south towards the Bab-el Mandeb strait, “though reporting to be heading to Suez and laden with oil – another point of suspicion”.

There are fears that this incident will increase tensions not only between Iran and Saudi Arabia but also in the region as a whole.