Leakage of cargo from an Iranian-owned oil tanker allegedly hit by missiles in Red Sea waters off Saudi Arabia has been stopped as it heads for the Arabian Gulf, the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr reported on Saturday.
The tanker Sabiti was targeted on Friday, Iranian media had earlier reported. Reports concerning the exact nature of the incident were unclear.
“The tanker is heading for [Arabian Gulf] waters and we hope it will enter Iranian waters safely,” Mehr quoted an unnamed official as saying. “The cargo leakage has stopped.”
The incident, yet to be independently confirmed, is the latest involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Gulf region, and may ratchet up tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which lies at the southern end of the Red Sea.
The US, embroiled in a dispute with Iran over its nuclear plans, has blamed Iran for attacks on tankers in the Arabian Gulf in May and June. Iran has also been widely blamed for the September 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities. Tehran has denied having a role in any of them.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which operates in the region, said it was aware of the reports but had no further information.
The reports offered sometimes diverging accounts. Iranian state-run television, citing the national oil company, said the tanker was hit by missiles while denying a report they came from Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the ship was hit twice, without saying what struck it. State television broadcast images from the Sabiti’s deck saying they were taken after the attack but showing no visible damage. The ship’s hull was not in view.
The Red Sea is a major global shipping route for oil and other trade, linking the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Crude prices jumped briefly on the news of the alleged attack and industry sources said it could drive up already high shipping costs.
No one has claimed responsibility for the reported incident.