Iran claims oil tanker attacked in the Red Sea

State tanker company withdraws claim that ship was hit by missiles launched from Saudi Arabia

epa07912416 A handout picture made available by Iranian state TV official website (IRIB) reportedly shows Iranian oil tanker Sabiti in Red sea near the Jaddah port in Saudi Arabia, 11 October 2019. Media reported that an explosion damaged an Iranian oil tanker traveling through the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia on Friday.  EPA/IRIB TV HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Iran’s foreign ministry confirmed state media reports that an Iranian tanker was hit by missiles in the Red Sea, causing an oil spill, as the state tanker company withdrew its claim that the attack was launched from Saudi Arabia.

The Sabiti, a tanker capable of carrying 1 million barrels of crude, was damaged on Friday near the Saudi port of Jeddah after being hit by suspected missiles, Iranian state media said. The explosions on the tanker occurred between 5am and 5.20am local time damaging two of its main oil tanks, the Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna) reported.

"Those behind the attack are responsible for the consequences of this dangerous adventure, including the dangerous environmental pollution caused," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state TV.

He said the crew were unharmed and the situation was under control.

Saheb Sadeghi, a spokesman for the National Iranian Tanker Company, had initially told Iran’s Press TV that the ship was hit by missiles that probably came from the direction of Saudi Arabia. NITC later issued a statement to withdraw that claim.

The Saudi Ports Authority confirmed that an incident involving a tanker had occurred near Jeddah port overnight, but was unable to verify if the vessel was Iranian, according to a press officer.

A spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet overseeing the Middle East told Associated Press that authorities were “aware of reports of this incident” but declined to comment further.

The Sabiti reappeared on ship tracking sites after reports of the attack and was seen heading south towards the Gulf Of Aden. It was last located off the coast of Iran in late August, suggesting its tracking device had been switched off since then. The website put its location at about 130 kilometres south-west of Jeddah late Friday morning. The ship was carrying a full load of about 1 million barrels of crude oil, according to an analysis from data firm Refinitiv.

After initially saying the spill from the tanker had been halted and the damage minimised, the Iranian oil ministry’s Shana news service said crude was again flowing into the Red Sea. No one has provided any assistance the damaged ship, Al-Alam news channel reported citing Nasrollah Sardashti, head of NITC.

The, a website that monitors shipping and storage in the global oil industry, said it had seen no evidence to support the Iranian claims of an attack and oil spill.

“We do not see any smoke, fire, spills or tugboats. Instead, we see a tanker cruising home at a healthy speed,” TankerTrackers said in a tweet.

The reported attack comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Washington's bid to block Tehran's oil exports through sanctions. There have been a number of attacks on oil tankers and production facilities in the region since the US ended all waivers on Iranian oil sales in May.