Gulf tension takes a new turn | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 14, 2019

‘Mine, torpedo attacks’ on Oil Tankers in the Gulf of Oman

Gulf tension takes a new turn

 

♦ Iran calls incidents ‘suspicious’, wants regional talks; 44 crew rescued

♦ Oil prices surge by 4 percent as expert warns oil supply to West at risk  

♦ Khamenei tells Japan’s Abe he has no reply to message from Trump

 

Two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman yesterday, leaving one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices as much as 4% higher over worries about Middle East supplies.

The Front Altair, carrying petrochemical feedstock, was on fire in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after an explosion that a source blamed on a magnetic mine. The Norwegian owner said its crew were safe.

A second Japanese-owned tanker was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. The crew were also picked up.

Yesterday’s attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies.

“We need to remember that some 30% of the world’s (seaborne) crude oil passes through the Straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk,” said Paolo d’Amico, chairman of INTERTANKO tanker association.

 Tensions have risen since President Donald Trump, who has demanded Tehran curb its military programmes and influence in the Middle East, pulled the United States out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Yesterday’s attacks came as Shinzo Abe - prime minister of US ally Japan, a big importer of Iranian oil until Washington ratcheted up sanctions - visited Tehran with a message from Trump and urged all sides not to let tensions escalate.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incidents as “suspicious” on Twitter, noting that they occurred during Abe’s visit to Tehran. He called for regional dialogue.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said the Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line while transporting methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

It said the ship was afloat and the crew safe with one minor injury reported.

A shipping broker said the blast that struck the Kokuka Courageous might have been caused by a magnetic mine

Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo, owner of the Kokuka Courageous, said its ship was hit twice over a three-hour period.

Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC said the Front Altair, owned by Norway’s Frontline, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” around 0400 GMT, as it carried 75,000 tonnes of the petrochemical feedstock naphtha to Taiwan.

Iran’s IRNA reported that Iranian search and rescue teams had picked up 44 sailors from two damaged tankers and had taken them to the Iranian port of Jask. That report could not immediately be confirmed.

Yesterday’s suspected attacks came a day after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis fired a missile on an airport in Saudi Arabia, injuring 26 people. The Houthis also claimed an armed drone strike last month on Saudi oil pumping stations.

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei told Abe during his visit to Iran that Tehran would not repeat its “bitter experience” of negotiating with the United States, state media reported.

“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” the Iranian leader said.

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