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Iran oil vessel breaks down in Red Sea off Saudi coast

The oil tanker suffered engine failure. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 May, 2019

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An Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 1 million barrels of fuel oil suffered a breakdown in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
An Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 1 million barrels of fuel oil suffered a breakdown in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia, authorities said on Thursday.

The malfunction involving the vessel Happiness I came as US oil exemptions for Iranian crude oil purchases expired, part of President Donald Trump's hostile approach against Tehran.

Saudi Arabia's state television channels and news agency said authorities received a distress call from the Happiness I over an "engine failure and the loss of control."

Happiness I had a crew of 26, including 24 Iranians as well as two Bangladeshis, according to media reports.

The ship's position was some 70 kilometers south of Jeddah in the Red Sea.

Saudi authorities said several government agencies were involved in the operation, including those who handle environmental protection.

It is unclear if oil had spilled from the tanker.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported that the state-run National Iranian Tanker Co. would be transferred to Jeddah's port, noting that the vessel, on the way to the Suez Canal, broke down over water leaking into its engine room.

No injuries have been reported in the incident and Iran denied any fuel had leaked out.

MarineTraffic.com, a website that tracks vessels at sea, put the Happiness I about 40 kilometers off the coast of Jeddah late Thursday morning.

Happiness I carried at least 1.1 million barrels of fuel oil, according to the website TankerTrackers.com, whose analysts monitor oil sales on the seas.

The enterprise said the ship sailed in tandem with another smaller sister ship named the Sabiti.

The Happiness I stopped its engines Tuesday, then was shadowed by the Sabiti close enough to have its crew escape, TankerTrackers said, adding that two tugboats from Saudi Arabia appeared to have reached the ships.

TankerTrackers said it did not think there was an oil leak, though information about the incident was still unclear.

Iran, Saudi Arabia's archrivals in the region, now faces increased pressure from the US over its oil sales after Trump pulled America out of its nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran has warned that its response will be aggressive to any attempt to cut its oil exports to zero, as the Trump administration has vowed to do.

Happiness I breakdown is latest incident involving an Iranian tanker.

In January last year, the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi hit the Chinese freighter CF Crystal 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai in the East China Sea.

The Sanchi, which was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of a gassy, ultra-light oil bound for South Korea, caught fire, killing 32 sailors on board.

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