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Explosive-laden boat causes explosion on oil tanker in Saudi Arabia

15 December 2020

A fuel transport ship suffered an explosion while docked at the Jeddah terminal in Saudi Arabia on December 14 after it was struck by an “external source”, shipping firm Hafnia said. No one was injured in the incident and no damage was sustained to port facilities.

BW Rhine in 2012 - Image: Wikimedia/User:Comrade Foot
BW Rhine in 2012 - Image: Wikimedia/User:Comrade Foot

The Saudi Energy Ministry said in a statement on December 15 that the transport ship BW Rhine, which was anchored in the fuel terminal in Jeddah, was attacked by explosive-laden boat in the early hours of the morning. The attack resulted in a small fire, which emergency units successfully extinguished, the Ministry said. The port was closed following the incident, however opened again after a few hours.

The attack follows similar incidents in recent months including an attack on another oil tanker in Al-Shuqaiq and a missile attack on the petroleum products distribution station in north Jeddah. The Energy Ministry said: “These acts of terrorism and vandalism, directed against vital installations, go beyond the Kingdom and its vital facilities, to the security and stability of energy supplies to the world and the global economy.”

Shipping company Hafnia said the BW Rhine was hit by an external source whilst discharging at around 00:40 local time. The incident caused an explosion and fire. All discharge operations were immediately stopped, and emergency procedures were enacted which enabled the crew to extinguish the fire with the assistance of onshore fire brigades. The company said all 22 crew were accounted for and did not suffer any injuries.

Hafnia added that some damage was sustained to the hull and it is possible that some oil escaped from the vessel, however this has not been confirmed and instrumentation currently indicates that oil levels on board are at the same level as before the incident. Cooling procedures and inerting of cargo space were initiated to avoid reignition of fire.

The BW Rhine, a Singaporean-flagged tanker, is owned and operated by Hafnia and can carry between 60,000-80,000 tonnes of oil products. Hafnia said it is working with all relevant authorities to ensure the ongoing security of the crew, vessel and environment.

No one has claimed the attack. Saudi Arabia blamed Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels for last month’s missile attack on the petroleum products distribution plant in Jeddah.

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