Saudi coast guard says Iranian tanker sent distress call, then went silent

Saudi Arabias coast guard said it received a distress call from an Iranian oil tanker that reportedly came under attack in the Red Sea near Jeddah on Friday, but the vessel had switched off its tracking system when a response was made to its request for assistance.

The distress call was sent by email and stated that the front of the tanker, the Sabiti, had suffered damage and there was an oil leak, the Saudi Press Agency quoted a coast guard spokesman as saying.

Communications were analysed in order to provide help, but the vessel continued moving further away from Jeddah Islamic Port, the spokesman said. The tanker switched off its automatic tracking system without responding to the Saudi calls to assist, he said.

According to ship-monitoring websites, the Sabiti had switched on its tracking system for the first time since August after Iranian media began reporting the ship had been hit by missiles.

The tanker is moving toward Iran at maximum speed and will reach the Bab Al Mandeb strait in less than 24 hours, the Iranian Oil Ministrys Shana news service reported, citing Nasrollah Sardashti, head of the National Iranian Tanker Company. Sabiti will enter Iranian waters in 10 days, Mr Sardashti said.

Leakage of cargo from the tanker has been stopped as it heads for the Gulf, the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr reported.

An Iranian government spokesman said Iran would respond to incident after the facts had been studied.

"Iran is avoiding haste, carefully examining what has ha....

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