An oil tanker outside Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jiddah exploded early Monday after being hit by an “external source”, a shipping company said, indicating that another ship had been attacked by the kingdom in the middle of its year-long war in Yemen.
The Singapore-flagged BW Rhine saw all 22 sailors on board flee unharmed, the BW group said in a statement. The company warned that it was possible that some oil was leaking from the scene of the explosion.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately recognize the explosion, which hit an important port and distribution center for its oil trade. However, it comes after a mining attack last month that damaged a tanker outside Saudi Arabia that the authorities blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Britain’s Marine Trade Operations, an organization under Britain’s Royal Navy, urged ships in the area to be cautious and said investigations were ongoing.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence company, also reported the blast. No one immediately offered a thing.
The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The blast comes after a mine exploded and damaged a ship off Saudi Arabia last month. Another mysterious attack was aimed at a cargo ship outside the small port city of Nishtun in the far east of Yemen earlier this month.
Yemen’s Iranian – backed Houthi rebels have used anti – personnel mines earlier in their long war against a Saudi coalition. However, the Houthis have not commented on last month’s attack.
Dryad Global said that if it was the Houthis behind Sunday’s explosion, it would “represent a fundamental change in both focus and intent.”
The Red Sea is an important shipping hub for both freight and global energy supply, making any break in the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried by the currents that change during the season in the Red Sea.
The Red Sea has been mined before. In 1984, some 19 ships reported mining there, with only one ever recovered and disarmed, according to a UN panel of experts investigating Yemen’s war.