Oil prices surge after Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

The Saudi oil tanker Al-Marzoqah was one of the four ships damaged in alleged ‘sabotage attacks’ a month earlier off the coast of Fujairah. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Oil prices surge after Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

  • The attacks took place to the east of the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies, raising fears of disruption to the global energy trade
  • They come at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s activities in the region and after Tehran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt shipping in and out of the Arabian Gulf

LONDON: Twin attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, close to the world’s biggest energy chokepoint, sent oil prices surging by as much as 4.5 percent on Thursday.

The attacks took place to the east of the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies, raising fears of disruption to the global energy trade. 

They come at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s activities in the region and after Tehran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt shipping in and out of the Arabian Gulf.

Benchmark brent crude prices were up by 1.8 percent to $61.06 at around 4 p.m. GMT, having risen as much as 4.5 percent earlier in the day.

Thursday’s attacks involved the Front Altair, which caught fire in between the coast of Iran and the UAE after an explosion, and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo.

The incidents follow the “sabotage” of four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port last month.

Robin Mills, CEO of consultancy Qamar Energy, told Arab News that Thursday’s attacks were “considerably” more serious than the Fujairah incident. 

“Security will no doubt be beefed up, but it will have to be extended further if there is any repetition of such an attack,” he said. 

The impact on oil prices came despite global exporters having the capacity to boost production if needed, Mills added. 

“On the overall market, demand growth is weakening and there is plenty of spare capacity, but most of this is in the Gulf, of course. So (it is) not surprising we saw the price response,” he said. 

Andy Lipow, an analyst at Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said the attacks could have a further knock-on impact on the market, notably on insurance risk premiums. 

“These types of attacks have always been a concern,” he told Reuters.

“But the impact of tanker owners not chartering their vessels and insurance companies potentially refusing to provide coverage could further exacerbate the supply problem.”


No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

Updated 20 September 2019
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No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

  • The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market
  • Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Apple’s latest iPhone 11 range hit stores in China on Friday, with short queues of die-hard fans contrasting with the hundreds who camped out ahead of some previous launches.
The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market, where Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years.
The queues at the Shanghai and Beijing stores, which combined added up to few dozen customers, were in sharp contrast to previous years, when hundreds used to wait for hours outside Apple’s shops to be the first to grab its latest offerings.
But much of the fanfare in China has moved online where the pre-sales for iPhone 11, priced between $699 and $1,099, started last week.
Analysts said they had gotten off to a better start than the last cycle a year ago. Chinese e-commerce site JD.com said day one pre-sales for the iPhone 11 series were up 480 percent versus comparable sales for the iPhone XR last year.
Among customers that took to a store in Beijing on Friday to make a purchase in person was a programmer who only gave his surname as Liu, who said he had a model from every Apple series since the 3G range.
He said he was particularly attracted to the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro, which has three cameras on the back. “When it comes to taking photos, it’s better for night shots and the image is clearer,” he told Reuters.
Other customers, however, said that they were concerned that the range was not enabled for fifth-generation networks, putting them behind 5G models already released by China’s Huawei Technologies and smaller rival Vivo, and expressed hopes that Apple could make it happen for its next line-up.
“I think by the end of next year, especially in big cities like Beijing, 5G will be commonplace,” said civil servant Liu Liu. “If they don’t research this then they’ll lag way behind.”
The in-store launch of the iPhone 11 in China came a day after Chinese smartphone maker Huawei unveiled new smartphones which it said were more compact, with more sensitive cameras and wraparound screens more vivid than those of the latest iPhone, though it played down concerns about the lack of access to Google’s popular apps.
Huawei has experienced a surge in support from Chinese consumers after the brand was caught up in a trade war between the United States and China, which has in turn eaten into Apple’s market share in the country.