Saudi Tanker Busts a New Move

Published in Discoveries. ∼ Updated Oct 12, 2018

On July 25^th^, 2018, we published an article called Saudi Vessel Struck Off the Coast of Yemen moments after finding out that a tanker carrying a Saudi flag was attacked by Houthi rebels from the west coast of Yemen. Sure enough, the oddly distinct maneuver of the AL MAHFOZA two days prior to the report says a lot. For one, her satellite AIS transponder was switched off during her westbound journey from the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea just before leaving Omani waters for the journey alongside Yemen’s 1906 kilometer long coastline. Even though the bulk of the threat is in the southern end of the Red Sea; the modus operandi for Saudi vessels in general seems to be as shown on the map: Switch off AIS before entering Yemen.

On July 23^rd^, the AIS transponder was switched back on while carrying out her evasive maneuver after the assault. This was most likely done so that the Saudi Navy and HQ could keep track of them, while also providing records to their insurance company.

If she had suffered any substantial damage, her 5 week trace in the Red Sea certainly doesn’t indicate it as the very first thing she did was deliver her oil cargo to the power plant in Shuqaiq, southern Saudi Arabia. From there, the AL MAHFOZA did a series of transfers between various coastal ports, feeding the power plants ahead of the busy Hajj pilgrimage period.

Fast-forward to this week, and we see that she’s finally about to leave the Red Sea. The latest satellite AIS transmission was made two days ago on August 27^th^ at 19:05 UTC. The oddest thing about it is where she went dark: the shallow waters of Eritrea’s Dahlac (Archipelago) Marine National Park. According to Wikipedia, permission is required to travel there as there as it is a wildlife preserve, home to 325 different species of fish and a population of 2,500 people across four key islands.

The AL MAHFOZA sits 8 meters deep in the water, but if you examine this map closely, you’ll see that she will need to navigate carefully in order to avoid running aground. We’ve also added a layer of data showing tanker traffic (of all sizes) over the past two years and the AL MAHFOZA is definitely finding herself in questionable waters. Now that she’s offline again, is all this to avoid a new assault? She’s travelling empty to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates; due to arrive on September 3^rd^.

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