Reports issued by the Saudi-led coalition that is active in Yemen state that they had foiled a potential attack on a crude oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden.
The attack was reported in a coalition briefing as having taken place on 3 Mar 20 approx. 90 nm SE of the Yemeni port of Nishtun, situated on Yemen’s SE coast The attack is reported to have entailed three boats which attempted to attack the ship and trigger an explosion. It is also suggested that one of the skiffs was unmanned and was water-borne improvised explosive device (WBIED), Dryad Global reports.
The initial Coalition briefing provided a slightly different location for the incident to that of original source reports from UKMTO who placed the incident 95nm SW of the Port of Nishtun.
The vessel under attack was identified by TankerTrackers.com as being the Saudi flagged Aframax MT GLADIOLUS IMO 9169548. Analysis of the vessel indicate that she maintained a consistent speed of 10.9kts throughout and did not alter her course, Dryad Global said.
A number of photos purporting to have been taken from the deck of the GLADIOLUS show a small unmanned fishing vessel at speed in close proximity to the vessel. A video posted online by twitter user @MaritimeSecuri1 reportedly taken by a vessel in the vicinity shows a large black plume of smoke on the horizon indicating an explosion has occurred.
“Despite the unusual presence of both photographic images and video, there remains a considerable level of ambiguity surrounding this incident. In stark contrast to previous incidents involving the targeting of Saudi flagged vessels by rockets within the Bab al Mandab and events involving Iran within the Gulf of Oman in 2019, Saudi Arabia has failed to provide a comprehensive narrative of events involving the alleged attacks on vessels by WBIED’s.
“It remains a realistic possibility that this attack has either not occurred in the manner Saudi Arabia has portrayed it has, or has been knowingly exaggerated for strategic effect,” Dryad Global said.
“An attack of this nature allows Saudi Arabia to deepen its narrative which presents Houthi rebels as a clear threat to its regional interests, and solidifies a justification for the war within Yemen. Following the recent years destabilising regional events, and the projection of Iranian power, Saudi Arabia is also keen to act in a manner which projects the notion that it is the ‘regional enabler’ which provides a counterbalance to Iranian influence. Efforts which are either illicit or covert would not be a new phenomenon for either Saudi Arabia or Iran, and cannot be ruled out. Within a US election cycle which will only continue to escalate, Saudi Arabia will be keen to portray itself as a keen defender of US interests in the region, in the hope of a deepened relationship come the potential re-election of President Trump.”