HOUTHI ATTACK ON SAUDI OIL TANKER: INCIDENT ANALYSIS REPORT

INCIDENT.

A laden Saudi Flagged Tanker MT ABQAIQ (pictured above) was attacked in the Southern Red Sea 3 Apr at 1215 Local Time. The initial report stated that the vessel was being escorted by a Saudi Warship when 45nm west of Hoedida.

DRYAD COMMENT.

The vessel was hit on the starboard bow in the position circled in Fig 2. The location of impact is likely to be a forepeak machinery room or store rather than a cargo carrying area indicated above. The impact damage is estimated at 0.5 to 1m across with a 20-30cm hull penetrating hole. The steel appears to bend inwards with a mark indicating a penetration from fine on the Stbd bow circled in Fig 2. A single uncorroborated source in country stated that only the outer hull was punctured, the second was almost ruptured but held.

 

DRYAD ANALYSIS.

Whilst there is damage to the vessels paint there is no apparent ‘spall pattern’ – Typical spall pattern of Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) shown Fig 3. An uncorroborated, medium confidence level, single source in country stated that the Saudi Naval Vessel only started to escort after the explosion. The source went on to say that no small vessels were seen visually or by radar meaning that a standoff attack with an RPG seemed unlikely. Forensic weather analysis shows that small boat operations in the area at the time of attack would have been inhibited in both targeting and operation of a weapon system. Radar detection distances of small boats would have been severely hampered and detection of small craft by radar is unlikely outside of 2nm. Given the absence of a spall pattern and the size of the hole, it is assessed that an RPG attack from a small boat is unlikely.

Given the Houthi agenda of focussed targeting of Saudi assets then a potential firing point of 45nm east of vessel location would indicate a shore launched anti-ship rocket system. Further still the Saudi Coalition blockade of Hoedida presents a concentration of viable targets in this area. It is assessed that the vessel was not identified until Hanish Island unless prior information regarding the vessels whereabouts had been obtained. Of note distance at which flag can be positively identified are approximately 1000 yards with naked eye (x 7 for stable magnification) therefore it is assessed that third party targeting in this instance would be as a result of local fishing activity off of Hanish.

The precise nature of targeting and weapon system remains unknown. Dryad continue to assess that targeting by Houthi rebels is almost exclusively as a result of vessels being identified as being in support of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen or due to proximity to Saudi Naval vessels. Houthi rebels are assessed as being highly unlikely to utilise limited and valuable weapon systems against targets that are not positively identifiable as being of Saudi origin or in direct support of Saudi coalition forces.