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‘Explosion’ Reported On Iranian Oil Tanker Off Saudi Coast

‘Explosion’ Reported On Iranian Oil Tanker Off Saudi coast

An explosion has caused a fire on an Iranian tanker near the coast of Saudi Arabia, Iranian media say.

The vessel, from Iran’s national oil company (NIOC), was 60 miles (97km) from the Saudi port city of Jeddah.

The ship’s two main storage tanks are said to have been damaged, causing an oil spill in the Red Sea, but no-one was injured and the spill is said to have been contained.

Iranian authorities said the cause of the incident is being investigated.

Initial media reports said the vessel was hit by missiles. But Iran’s national tanker company (NITC) denied the claims, and said the fire had been put out and the oil spillage reduced to a minimum.

Iranian state TV identified the ship as the oil tanker Sinopa, but the NIOC later said it was another vessel named Sabiti.

A source at maritime analytics firm Windward told the BBC it was common for such ships to turn off their automatic identification system (AIS) trackers to avoid detection – often to evade international sanctions or harassment from Saudi Arabia.

Because of regulations, such vessels must turn their AIS back on close the Suez Canal. The Windward source said Sabiti was behaving unusually because it switched its AIS back on hundreds of miles from the Suez, after being “dark” for two months.

 The incident came amid heightened tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Last month, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit a major oil field and processing facility in Saudi Arabia, which blamed Iran for the attack.

And US officials said Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf in June and July, as well as attacks on another four tankers in May.

Iran denied involvement in all the incidents.

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