Federica Mogherini (L), EU foreign and security policy chief, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R), attend a meeting with foreign affairs officials from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia at the UN headquarters in New York Sept. 25, 2019. Parties to an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program pledged on Wednesday to continue efforts to preserve the July 2015 deal. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
Suspected missile strikes hit an Iranian oil tanker near the Saudi coast on Friday, its owner said, the first Iranian vessel targeted since a spate of attacks in the Gulf Washington blamed on Tehran.
Oil prices surged more than two percent on the news, which raised new supply concerns with tensions still high after last month’s attacks on two Saudi crude facilities.
The International Energy Agency warned Friday against market complacency.
In its first monthly report following the attack last month on Saudi installations that caused the largest-ever loss in oil production from a single incident, the IEA noted that a quick recovery of output and fears about an economic slowdown had already seen prices return to pre-attack levels.
“Further incidents of this nature in the strategically important Gulf region could happen and cause even greater disruption,” the Paris-based organization said.
The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which owns the ship, said the hull of the Sabiti was hit by two separate explosions about 100 kilometers off the Saudi coast, saying they were “probably caused by missile strikes.”
It identified the name of the vessel as Sabiti.
The news sent Brent surging 2.3 percent to $60.46, while West Texas Intermediate jumped 2.1 percent to $54.69.
“All the ship’s crew are safe and the ship is stable too,” NITC said, adding those on board were trying to repair the damage.
Oil was leaking from the tanker into the Red Sea off the major Saudi port of Jeddah.
The state-owned company said that contrary to reports, “there is no fire aboard the ship and the ship is completely stable.”
According to Iranian state television, the blasts could have been the result of a “terrorist attack.”
There was confusion about the name of the vessel involved.
TankerTrackers, a site that monitors maritime traffic, identified the ship as the Sinopa.
It comes after a spate of attacks on shipping in and around the vital seaway to the Gulf involving and Western powers.
Washington accused Tehran of attacking the vessels with mines, something it strongly denied.
Iran has been locked in a standoff with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.