All evidence we see from the AIS data alone indicates that the attack on the Saudi tankers did not take place on July 25th, 2018 as reported in the media and later commented on by both Bahri fleet and ARAMCO.
The attacks seem to have taken place two days prior, on July 23rd. We reported this about the AL-MAHFOZA in our initial blog on the matter and about the ARSAN. ARSAN has stopped transponding over satellite AIS on the 23rd while it was about to enter the Bab Al-Mandeb strait.
Now, let’s look at the timeline of events:
July 23rd, 05:58 UTC - ARSAN (VLCC) laden with 2 million barrels from Ras Tanura (east coast) stops transponding over satellite AIS upon approaching Bab Al-Mandeb. Was due for SUMED, Ain Sokhna, Egypt.
July 23rd, 17:27 UTC - AL MAHFOZA tanker seen making evasive maneuver in the Red Sea, just north of Yemen, as we initially reported. This vessel is a Aframax, not a VLCC, and is owned by Red Sea Marine Services. She had arrived from Ras Tanura.
July 25th, 01:00 UTC - ABQAIQ (VLCC) owned by Bahri stops transponding over satellite AIS upon approaching the Bab Al-Mandeb.
July 25th, 09:26 UTC - Almasirah News Network publishes article about attack on Saudi Navy ship, DAMMAM.
July 25th, 15:00 UTC - Bahri (Saudi fleet) issues a tweet saying that one of its VLCC’s had an incident.
July 25th, 21:09 UTC (in both Arabic and English) - ARAMCO issues tweets and articles saying that two VLCC’s were affected.
So now the question is: Where can a tanker disappear to given that it’s been offline for nearly a week? We must keep in mind that both ARSAN and ABQAIQ are fully laden, meaning that the oil inside them weighs them down in the water, usually to depths of 22 meters. Here’s a trail of where such supertankers normally navigate. We checked Djibouti and found nothing, also because it’s too shallow for a vessel in such a condition. There are very few ports here which accept such vessels.
If neither of these two vessels re-appear back on the AIS map anytime soon, we’re going to try finding them by satellite as the weather hasn’t been on our side this time.