The captain of the BW Rhine has told Al Arabiya TV that "small boats" were seen nearby before the tanker was rocked by an explosion in Jeddah after midnight early Monday.
Also Monday, a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Energy told the Saudi Press Agency that the tanker, which was anchored at the Jeddah fuel terminal, was struck by an "explosive-laden boat" in a "terrorist attack."
The attack was said to have resulted in a small fire extinguished by the emergency services, with no casualties or damage to port facilities or supplies caused.
Earlier, Hafnia, the shipping company which operates the BW Rhine, confirmed that the ship's 22 member crew escaped unharmed, but also indicated that the water ballast and cargo tanks on the ship's port side had sustained damage.
The Singapore-flagged oil tanker was said to have been chartered by Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco, and to have been discharging fuel brought from the Saudi port of Yanbu further to the north at the moment the attack took place at about 12:40 am local time.
Video purportedly shows heavy smoke billowing from a tanker on fire off #SaudiArabia port city of #jeddah. Cause of incident is explosion that said to be an external source, 22 crew members managed to escape. #ميناء_جده #جده #السعودية pic.twitter.com/HXSUoCuH6a— RAVEEN (@raveenaujmaya) December 14, 2020
The ministry spokesman added that the attack followed similar strikes on a petroleum products distribution in north Jeddah, as well as a floating unloading platform in Jizan.
Stressing the destructive nature of the attacks and the threat they pose "to the security and stability of energy supplies to the world and the global economy," the spokesman called on countries to "stand together against such subversive terrorist acts."
String of Attacks
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the BW Rhine, but Saudi Arabia has previously blamed similar strikes on its ships, port facilities, airports, military bases, cities and border posts on Yemen's Houthi militia.
The port of Jeddah is situated about 600 km from the Yemeni border. The Houthis have been suspected of sabotage attacks using sea mines planted in Saudi waters. Other attacks, such as the twin strikes on a pair of Saudi oil processing facilities in September 2019, were reportedly carried out using drones and ballistic missiles.
Saudi Arabia and its US allies have accused Iran of providing the Houthis with advanced military hardware and reported the regular interception of 'Iranian' weapons supplies to the militia group. Tehran has denied the claims, citing the Saudi coalition's maritime blockade around Yemen, while the Houthis maintain that its weapons were "developed with purely Yemeni expertise" on the basis of Soviet missile designs which the country obtained during the Cold War.
Despite its vast superiority in troops, military technology and economic resources, the Saudi-led coalition has so far failed to dislodge the Houthis from their entrenched positions, with Saudi Arabia itself suffering regular attacks on its infrastructure. At the same time, the war in Yemen has devastated the country, killing over 233,000 people, both in fighting and as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Saudi blockade. According to the United Nations, up to 22 million people, or 75 percent of Yemen's population, remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including food aid.