Iranian oil tanker’s distress call for help in Red Sea went unnoticed: PMO

October 15, 2019 - 9:52

TEHRAN – The Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) has announced in a statement posted on its official website that none of the regional maritime bodies responded to calls for help by the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti when it came under missile attack off the Saudi coast in the Red Sea on Friday morning.

“No regional maritime administration responded to calls for assistance by MT Sabiti, and the PMO considers this in contrast and violation of international customary requirements, as well as humanitarian principles,” the organization stated.

The PMO said it is releasing this statement to clarify the ambiguities surrounding the terrorist attack on Sabiti and also disprove claims of intention to assist the vessel at the time of distress.

Following is text of the statement posted on the PMO website: 

1) On 11 October 2019, MT Sabiti was on her way toward the Mediterranean Sea through the Red Sea (some 60 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia and Jeddah Port) when she suffered a terrorist attack, most probably by two missiles, at 01:30 and 01:50 GMT. As a result, two of her tanks were damaged, spilling crude oil into the sea, and the ship was listed to the starboard side.

2) From 05:11 to 07:20 GMT, the vessel released 16 distress alerts through three different means, on MF, HF, SAT-C, and VHF channels. As no response were received from regional maritime rescue coordination centers (MRCCs), the vessel proceeded to correspond through email to MRCCs in Jeddah Port, Egypt and Sudan at 08:20, announcing that the vessel had been struck and damaged, probably by two missiles. Moreover, the ship was listed to the starboard side, spilling crude oil into the sea, and thus requested immediate assistance. At 05:50 GMT, furthermore, the Iranian MRCC Bandar Abbas announced the situation to MRCC Jeddah through telephone, yet the latter did not confirm the receipt of the distress alerts, considered the issue to be an exaggeration by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), and promised to investigate and respond subsequently.

3) At 07:30 GMT, MRCC Jeddah still maintained their oblivion of the situation.

4) At 10:00 GMT, two helicopters flew from a naval vessel in the vicinity towards the distressed tanker, made two rounds and returned to their base vessel.

5) In the meantime, the distressed tanker and MRCC Bandar Abbas announced the situation to MRCC Jeddah, through different channels and in accordance with international regulations. However, despite the emphasis by international maritime requirements and the dire need of the tanker for assistance to regain her stability, no relevant measures were taken in the region. The PMO as the competent maritime administration of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers this to be in contrast and violation to international custom and standards, as well as humanitarian principles.