Contradictory and confusing news on a very major accident in Fujairah, UAE, Gulf of Oman, started to circulate since afternoon May 12, claiming that there were several explosions in Fujairah port area, and that as a result, at least seven tankers were set on fire. UAE officials condemned these rumors as “fake news”, insisting that nothing happened, and that the port is working without any accidents of any kind, let alone series of explosions and fires.
Later though, UAE admits there were accidents, describing them as “acts of sabotage”. In the evening UAE media Emirates News Agency published official press-release:
ABU DHABI, 12th May, 2019 (WAM) — Four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations today, 12th May, near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MOFAIC, has announced.
The Ministry said that the concerned authorities have taken all necessary measures, and are investigating the incident in cooperation with local and international bodies.
Iranian PRESS TV claimed it identified tankers hit by explosions: Despite the UAE government’s denial, witnesses have emphasized that the blasts have taken place and some media sources have even went further, identifying a number of oil tankers hit by the explosions by their hull numbers as follows:
[The following list of allegedly damaged oil tankers are all currently anchored at Fujairah–ed.]
Crude oil tanker AMJAD, IMO 9779800, dwt 300000, built 2017, flag Saudi Arabia. Crude oil tanker AL MARZOQAH, IMO 9165762, dwt 105084, built 1999, flag Saudi Arabia. Product tanker MIRAJ, IMO 9394741, dwt 7414, built 2007, flag Dominica. Product tanker A MICHEL, IMO 9177674, dwt 6711, built 2007, flag UAE.. Product tanker FNSA 10, IMO 9432074, dwt 6453, built 2007, flag UAE. https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/12/595783/UAE-fujairah-sabotage-vessel
Among allegedly struck tankers are one VLCC, one Aframax and three small tankers, most probably bunkering tankers.
What happened exactly, how bad were explosions and fire, if there were any, and what definition “act of sabotage” means, how much true is indeed, the whole story, is so far anyone’s guess.
At least three of abovementioned tankers, including VLCC and Aframax, are on the AIS, live, no interruptions. There are no auxiliary, or rescue, or fire, boats near them.
Apparently, if there were “acts of sabotage” on or near at least three tankers listed above, first of all VLCC and Aframax, it didn’t happen in port, but on outer anchorage, so news on port being on fire, immersed in dense smoke, can be considered as fake news.
Several heavy explosions occurred early on Sunday in the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, a number of media reports say. The reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.
According to the Emirati Foreign Ministry, four merchant vessels had been targeted by “acts of sabotage” in Gulf waters off its coast.
“Four commercial, civilian trading vessels of various nationalities this morning suffered acts of sabotage off the UAE’s eastern coast,” the statement reads.
The government of Fujairah denied on Sunday media reports about several heavy explosions taking place at the emirate’s port, insisting that the port is functioning as usual.
“The press service of the Fujairah government denied media reports about powerful explosions in the emirate’s port earlier this day and confirmed that ship traffic is as usual,” the state-run WAM news agency reports.
Earlier in the day, the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen broadcaster said, citing local media that several heavy explosions occurred in the port of Fujairah.
The blasts were heard between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. local time (00:00 — 03:00 GMT), the broadcaster reported, adding that from seven to 10 oil tankers were in flames. The broadcaster continued by saying that the real cause of the incident has still been unknown.
Other reports, citing eyewitnesses, suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.
Currently, there’s no information on possible casualties, while the authorities haven’t commented on the incident yet.
Port of Fujairah is the only multi-purpose port on the Eastern seaside of the country and is connected to all other emirates within 300 km. The port stands some 70 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, thus becoming increasingly important amid Iran’s threat to close the strait.
In July 2012, the UAE began utilising the Habshan-Fujairah oil pipeline from the Habshan fields in Abu Dhabi to the Fujairah, effectively bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.
Currently, the UAE is building the world’s largest crude oil storage facility in Fujairah, capable of storing up to 14 million barrels of oil.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Erik Prince – the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump – has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.
One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.
White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration’s thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.
Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment.
Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.
A spokesman for Prince, Marc Cohen, said this month that Prince “has no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela” and declined to answer further questions.
Lital Leshem – the director of investor relations at Prince’s private equity firm, Frontier Resource Group – earlier confirmed Prince’s interest in Venezuela security operations.
“He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places,” she said, declining to elaborate on his proposal.
The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilization operations.
For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.
One of Prince’s key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a “dynamic event” to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido – the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly – declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency.
Maduro has denounced Guaido, who has been backed by most western nations, as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup. Key government institutions – including the military – have not shifted their loyalty to Guaido despite increasing international pressure from sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
Guaido has stressed that he wants a peaceful resolution, and Latin American governments recognizing his authority have urged against outside military action. Senior U.S. officials, without ruling out armed intervention, have also emphasized economic and diplomatic measures to pressure Maduro.
CLOSE TIES TO TRUMP
Prince was a pioneer in private military contracting during the Iraq war, when the U.S. government hired Blackwater primarily to provide security for State Department operations there.
In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad, sparking international outrage. One of the Blackwater employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.
Since 2014, Prince has run the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group, which has close ties to the state-owned Chinese investment company CITIC and helps Chinese firms operating in Africa with security, aviation and logistics services.
Prince donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported Trump’s election. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the administration’s education secretary.
Prince’s role in Trump’s campaign was highlighted in the report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, released this month, on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The report outlined how Prince financed an effort to authenticate purported Hillary Clinton emails and how in 2016 he met in the Seychelles islands, off east Africa, with a wealthy Russian financial official on behalf of Trump’s presidential transition team.
Prince spokesman Cohen declined to comment on the Mueller report.
TARGETING FROZEN ASSETS
The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s Venezuela plan said he is seeking $40 million from private investors. He also aims to get funding from the billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets that have been seized by governments around the world imposing sanctions on the OPEC nation, a major oil exporter.
It’s unclear, however, how the Venezuelan opposition could legally access those assets. Prince told people in pitch meetings, the sources said, that he believes that Guaido has the authority to form his own military force because he has been recognized internationally as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Prince envisions a force made up of “Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Spanish speakers,” one of the sources said, adding that Prince argued that such soldiers would be more politically palatable than American contractors.