Saudi oil tankers sabotaged off UAE coast as Trump warns Iran of ‘suffering greatly’ if Tehran attacks

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UAE Navy boats are seen next to Al Marzoqah, Saudi Arabian tanker, off the Port of Fujairah. (Reuters)
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The UAE foreign ministry had reported that four commercial vessels were targeted near its territorial waters. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 May 2019

Saudi oil tankers sabotaged off UAE coast as Trump warns Iran of ‘suffering greatly’ if Tehran attacks

  • The two tankers were targeted off the coast of the UAE
  • One tanker was en route to Saudi Arabia to be loaded with crude oil to send to the US

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Monday that two Saudi tankers were targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the UAE, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Khalid Al-Falih said the two tankers were targeted off the coast of Fujairah. He explained that one tanker was en route to the Kingdom to be loaded with Saudi crude oil to send to the United States to supply Saudi Aramco customers.

“Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels,” Al-Falih said. 

Al-Falih’s comments came as the US issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE’s regional allies condemned the reported sabotage of four ships off the coast of Fujairah. 

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RELATED: Four commercial vessels targeted by ‘sabotage’ near UAE waters: Foreign ministry

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Kingdom condemned the acts of sabotage that targeted commercial cargo ships near the territorial waters of the UAE. 

“This criminal act poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic and negatively affects regional and international peace and security,” the ministry said.

The UAE foreign ministry had reported on Sunday that four commercial vessels were targeted near its territorial waters.

The foreign ministry released a statement saying that the vessels - targeted at a distance of 115 kilometers from Iran -  were “civilian trading vessels of various nationalities”, and that the UAE was investigating the incident with local and international bodies. 

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, later tweeted that he welcomed the support of his country’s allies.

He said the investigation was being carried out in a professional fashion and that the truth would be revealed.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump warned Iran, saying that if Tehran does "anything" in the form of an attack "they will suffer greatly."

The incident involving Saudi ships raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Trump was asked about the sabotage, and responded: "It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens."

He spoke to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the prime minister of Hungary.

 A US official says an American military team’s initial assessment is that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to blow large holes in four ships.

The official says each ship has a 5-to-10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line. The US military team assesses that the holes were caused by explosive charges.

The UAE asked the US to help investigate the damage.

The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rumors about ships inside the port being sabotaged were unfounded, the UAE ministry added.

The Arab League condemned the attacks, describing them as a "crime" and added that the league would stand by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in their efforts to defend their security.

The port of Fujairah continues to operate as normal and there were no victims of the sabotage incidentThe ministry added that targeting merchant ships and threatening the lives of crew members is a “dangerous development,” and that the government considers the acts of sabotage to be a threat to the safety and security of the UAE. 

The statement came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the city’s port. 

The US has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

However, Iran on Monday called attacks on ships in the Gulf “alarming”, after the UAE and Saudi Arabia said several vessels including oil tankers were damaged in acts of sabotage off the Emirati coast.

The incidents are “alarming and regrettable,” Iranian Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in an English-language statement on the ministry’s website, calling for a probe into the attacks and warning of “adventurism” by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy and security chief, Federica Mogherini, urged to avoid any escalation on Iran. Mogherini said that a discussion would be held on Monday how to continue backing full implementation of the nuclear deal.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt also warned of the risks of an unintended conflict between the US and Iran over the unraveling nuclear deal.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended,” Hunt told reporters in Brussels, adding that it was crucial not to put Iran back on the path of re-nuclearisation.

(With AFP, AP, and Reuters)


Startup of the Week: Wayakit, the biotech firm helping travelers beat odors and stains

Updated 10 December 2019

Startup of the Week: Wayakit, the biotech firm helping travelers beat odors and stains

  • Wayakit leaves the clothes clean and fresh again

JEDDAH: Wayakit is a biotechnology start-up incubated by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

KAUST Ph.D students Sandra Medina and Luisa Javier are avid travelers who have come up with a pocket-sized product that deals with both odors and stains on fabrics, leaving the cloths clean and fresh again.

Wayakit is also gentler on fabrics because traditional laundry eventually damages them, said Javier, who first moved to Saudi Arabia from Mexico ten years ago.

Her business partner, Sandra Medina, who came from Colombia to study at KAUST, explained to Arab News how Wayakit works. “You just spray the smelly area twice and you’re good to go. In the case of stains, you spray twice and then pat dry it with a tissue and it will disappear,” she said.

The idea for the product came during a trip for a conference two years ago when the travelers realized their luggage was lost “We had to present with our dirty, seven-hours’ flight clothes,” Javier told Arab News.

“We started looking into the possibility then, because there’s not a proper solution to doing laundry while traveling,” she said.

They decided they needed to come up with a product that was not pricey, was easy to carry, and did the job by removing stains and bad odors “on-the-go.”

The duo began by interviewing more than 100 travelers of 23 different nationalities to find out if this was a common issue that travelers struggled with.

“From the Entrepreneurship Center at KAUST, we learned the importance of listening first to the customers before designing any product,” said Medina. From these interviews, Wayakit team got the product requirements and then moved into the lab to start working on the formulation of Wayakit. “The amazing facilities and labs in KAUST helped us to speed up the creation of our first prototype. After this, the same KAUST community was the people who first tried Wayakit and gave us feedback. “In KAUST we do not only have state-of-the-art labs, but also a whole entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Medina added.

Wayakit is different from its competitors in that it contains no toxic chemicals, and covers a broader spectrum in covering stains — it is two products in one. It also contains anti-bacterial properties, acting as a sanitizer that “removes all the stains that occur on a day-to-day basis as well as being an odor remover,” Javier said.

The pair went for a biotechnology-based formula that excluded the usage of oxidizers and focused on more organic compounds. “Even the anti-bacterial properties are not toxic as we incorporated these in an environmentally friendly formulation,” she said.

The Wayakit founders had to rigorously test their product, dealing with different types of sweat and stains to perfect their spray. “We had to give testers to travelers to try it out and had to listen to their feedback, then went back to the lab to improve it, in order to make sure the product was as promised.”

Medina said KAUST’s mentorship had also helped their company to develop. “KAUST for us is a catalyst of entrepreneurship and has given us a lot of room to grow our start-up Wayakit,” she said.

KAUST helped Wayakit by giving the advice and support from the start. From entrepreneurial courses to teaching the concepts of building a brand, KAUST encouraged Wayakit to grow from a scientific outlook and helped the founders to better understand the customer.

“As foreigners, it was difficult for us to understand the logistics and procurement of shipping and importing here in Saudi Arabia. KAUST has helped us to face that hurdle in order to be able to reach all our clients in the MENA region and worldwide,” Medina said. “Beyond helping travellers, our mission is to change the way how laundry is commonly done. We found a way to effectively wash clothes reducing water and energy consumption,” Javier said. 

Wayakit has recently began selling in Jeddah’s Homegrown Market, chosen because it is “a Middle Eastern brand store with unique ambience,” said Medina.