Two tankers struck in suspected attacks in Gulf of Oman

Published: June 13, 2019
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PHOTO: STOCK/FILE

PHOTO: STOCK/FILE

DUBAI: Two tankers were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman and the crew have been evacuated, shipping sources said on Thursday, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.

Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 44 sailors from the two damaged tankers in the Gulf, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed informed source.

The sailors were taken to the Iranian port of Jask, IRNA reported.

One of the ships was a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, Front Altair, heading from Qatar to Taiwan when a fire broke out on the tanker approximately 25 miles from Jask.

Twenty-three crew abandoned ship after the fire broke out and were picked up by a passing ship and handed over to an Iranian rescue vessel.

UAE says ‘sophisticated’ tanker attacks likely work of a state actor

The second tanker was Kokuka Courageous, a Panama-flagged ship heading from a port in Saudi Arabia towards Singapore, when a fire broke out approximately 28 miles from Jask.

Twenty-one crew abandoned ship and were picked up by Iranian search and rescue teams, IRNA reported.

Earlier, the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet told Reuters that they were assisting the tankers after receiving two distress calls. “We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. US Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 am local time and a second one at 7:00 am,” Joshua Frey of the Fifth Fleet said.

Prior to that, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, part of the Royal Navy, said it was aware of an incident in the Gulf of Oman. “UK and its partners are currently investigating,” the group said without elaborating.

Oil prices surged by four per cent after the report that raises tensions in the Gulf, which have been heightened by a dispute between Iran and the United States.

The area is near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway through which a fifth of global oil consumption passes from Middle East producers.

Oil tankers ‘sabotaged’ as Gulf tensions soar

Initially, the shipping newspaper, Tradewinds, reported that a tanker owned by Norway’s Frontline had been struck by a torpedo off the coast of Fujairah, one of the emirates in the United Arab Emirates.

It cited unnamed industry sources.

One shipping broker said there had been an explosion “suspected from an outside attack” that may have involved a magnetic mine on the Kokuka.

“All crew safely abandoned the vessel and was picked up by
Vessel Coastal Ace. Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew
on board,” the source said.

Another source said the Front Altair reported a fire caused by a “surface attack” and that the crew had been picked up by nearby vessel, Hyundai Dubai.

The UAE had said that the May 12 attacks on four vessels off the coast of Fujairah, a main bunkering hub, were likely caused by limpet mines and bore the hallmarks of an operation most likely by a state actor.

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United Nations blamed Iran, while Tehran has denied any involvement.

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