May 24, 2019– Mary Greeley News – A sizeable oil slick developed in waters where tankers were damaged off the United Arab Emirates on 12 May.
Sources revealed that the two sabotaged vessels were identified as the Saudi oil tankers Al-Marzoqah and Amjad. In the meantime, the other two vessels were the Norwegian tanker Andrea Victory, and a UAE bunkering barge, the A Michel.
Finnish company Iceye says one of its radar satellites detected a long trail leading from the Saudi-flagged vessel Amjad two days later.
The crude oil tanker and three other ships suffered damage while anchored outside the port of Fujairah.
No-one has yet said they were behind the incidents. Nor is it clear precisely what happened.
US investigators reportedly believe Iran or groups it supports used explosives to damage the ships – but no evidence has emerged to show that Iran was involved.
The analysis cannot state how much oil was present on the water, but the interpretation has been validated by Kongsberg Satellite Services, a Norwegian company with expertise in oil slick detection.
“Oil on top of seawater is visible on radar satellite imaging because it changes the way the water surface reflects radio waves,” explained Iceye CEO Rafal Modrzewski.
“Oil forms a layer on top of the seawater. This changes the water’s viscosity, flattening and making the surface smoother. As a result, oil on water appears on the image as a dark patch,” he told BBC News.
The Amjad was reported to be empty of crude so the leak could well be engine fuel.
Spain pulls out
U.S. ally Spain has temporarily pulled out a frigate that was part of a fleet in the area while tensions mount.
The Spanish Ministry of Defense says the Mendez Nunez frigate, with 215 sailors on board, will not cross the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf together with the fleet headed by the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier strike group has been in the area since May 4, along with a group of B-52 bombers, on the orders of the White House after national security adviser John Bolton had warned Iran “that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
The Spanish vessel was the only non-American vessel in the fleet, and Spanish media reported the decision was made to avoid having the country being drawn into a conflict between the U.S. and its longtime antagonist Iran.
The U.S. official said each ship sustained a 1.5- to three-meter hole in it, near or just below the water line, suspected to have been caused by explosive charges. Emirati officials had requested a team of U.S. military investigators aid them in their probe.
UAE and Saudi authorities have released few details about what happened on 12 May and an inquiry is under way.
The Reuters news agency reported that damage was inflicted on the Amjad; another Saudi tanker, Al Marzoqah; a UAE-flagged bunker vessel, A Michel; and a Norwegian tanker, Andrea Victory.
The event occurred amid rising tensions in the region.
Fujairah port is located on the east coast of the UAE in the Gulf of Oman and is at the funnel point into the Strait of Hormuz – the main shipping route linking Middle East oil producers with the rest of the world.
credit: In part with https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48387033