Gulf officials declined to say who they suspected was responsible, but a US official in Washington said an American military team's initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships, including two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel. Crude rose as much as 2%.
Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates near Fujairah in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States.
The two Saudi ships were among the four vessels reportedly sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman, off the eastern coast of the UAE near the port city of Fujairah.
As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility.
The UAE asked the U.S.to help investigate the damage, which Gulf officials have characterized as sabotage.
The attack off the coast of the UAE came just a day after the US warned of "an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against USA and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz", located less than 100 miles away and through which a third of the world's maritime oil traffic passes. "The worldwide community has a joint responsibility to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets and the danger they pose to the global economy", he said.
The United States had imposed new sanctions on Iran in November previous year, but gave a six-month waiver to eight countries, including India, which allowed them to import some Iranian oil. The Islamic Republic has threatened to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the USA halts Iranian energy exports and to scale back its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.
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Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran's Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the Saudi tankers. He warned against "foreign seditious plots to upset the region's security and stability". Both popular oil blends, Brent and WTI had gained around 3% by 13:00 UTC, with Brent futures reaching the price of $72.53 per barrel and WTI - $63.27 per barrel. Tehran's envoy to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi called Bolton's claims of an impending Iranian plot "fake intelligence" that was "being produced by the same people who, in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, did the same"-a reference to Bolton's role in supporting the 2003 Iraq War based on claims it produced weapons of mass destruction and harbored links to Al-Qaeda, later found false". Dubai's benchmark dropped 4%, the most among major gauges tracked by Bloomberg globally.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Although the event didn't result in casualties or a spill, it could still affect the delivery of the oil shipments.
The very large crude carrier Amjad and the aframax product tanker Al Marzoqah were reported as the Saudi-owned vessels involved.
Although details of the attacks were not disclosed, targeting tankers and commercial shipping vessels so close to the Persian Gulf has the potential to rattle global oil supplies.
Last month, Saudi Arabia approached Indian buyers offering them additional supplies to compensate for loss of Iranian oil after the United States threatened to sanction entities buying oil from Tehran, the sources said. Oil exports flowed also during the first Gulf War in 1990-91.
Ship agencies at Fujairah reported they were unable to substantiate government reports or explain what happened because it was a criminal offence in the UAE to circulate information viewed as harming the emirates' reputation.