The globally relevant port of Jeddah, on the Red Sea, off the coasts of Saudi Arabia was shut this Monday, after an explosion was registered on a vessel with fuel cargo; apparently, the explosion was due to an attack by Yemen’s rebels, due to the years-long war of the Kingdom with Yemen.
Singapore-flagged RW Rhine was the vessel which suffered the attack; the ship had been contracted by Saudi Arabian Oil Corp. According to Saudi’s news media, the attack was carried by a remote-controlled boat, like the ones used by Houthi rebels. This one is the fourth assault of this nature in a month.
After the attack, the port was shut entirely for an undetermined period of time. Because of the nature of the explosion, and because the port had largely avoided the tensions involving the Yemen conflict, and also the ones between U.S. and Iran, concerns about safety in the Red Sea are renewed.
BW Rhine had berthed on Jeddah port on Saturday, carrying nearly 60,000 metric tons of unleaded gasoline from Armco refinery at Yambu. The gasoline was supposed to be consumed by the Kingdom. There on the spot, the explosion happened, while the vessel was discharging its load.
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Red sea connections with big markets, at stake
All 22 shipmen were unhurt, as the explosion and fire consumed the vessel’s hull. Then, firefighters extinguished the blaze. While some sources say that some gasoline could have polluted the sea surrounding the ship, there is not a certain damage assessment. According to the Boston Chronicle, the company is still evaluating the damage.
Still, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. After 12 hours of the happening, Saudi Arabia’s Press Agency ran a statement saying the attack was made by a bomb-laden boat. Energy Ministry official did not blame anyone for the attack, despite the relation between remote controlled bombs by boat, and the Houthis.
“These acts of terrorism and vandalism, directed against vital installations in the red sea, go beyond the kingdom and its vital facilities, to the security and stability of energy supplies to the world and the global economy,” Saudi Arabia’s the statement said.
Jeddah port is the principal port serving the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Through there, the kingdom handles 65% of its imports. It connects Saudi Arabia with its major markets in Africa and the Middle East.