Oil tankers struck in suspected attacks in Gulf of Oman amid rising regional tensions
The MT Front Altair was one of two oil tankers reportedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman. (AP: Patrick Vereecke/Marine Traffic)
Two oil tankers have been hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman and the crews have been evacuated, shipping firms and industry sources said, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.
- One vessel reportedly sank and it was suspected the other was hit with a torpedo
- Sources said crew members from both vessels had been safely evacuated
- The attacks come amid growing tensions between Iran and the US
The Bahrain-based United States Navy Fifth Fleet said it was assisting the tankers after receiving distress calls following “reported attacks”.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, part of the Royal Navy, said it was investigating.
Details of the incident were not immediately clear, but one operator said it suspected its ship had been hit by a torpedo.
Another shipping firm said its vessel was on fire in the Gulf of Oman.
Oil prices surged by 4 per cent after the report, which has further stoked tensions following attacks last month on Gulf oil assets amid a dispute between Iran and the US over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Gulf of Oman lies at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway through which a fifth of global oil consumption passes from Middle East producers.
There was no immediate confirmation from authorities in Oman or the United Arab Emirates, in whose territorial waters four tankers were hit last month.
US and Saudi officials blamed Iran for the May attack, a charge Tehran has denied.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged today while on passage from Saudi Arabia to Singapore in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line.
“The ship is safely afloat,” it said in a statement.
Japan’s Trade Ministry said the two vessels had “Japan-related cargo” as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up a high-stakes visit in Tehran that sought to ease tensions between Iran and the US.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, is visiting Tehran for talks with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. (AP: Ebrahim Noroozi)
Taiwan’s state-owned petroleum company CPC said tanker Front Altair, carrying 75,000 tonnes of petrochemical Naphtha, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” at about 4:00am.
Frontline, the Norwegian company that owns the vessel, said it was on fire in the Gulf of Oman.
Sources said crews from both vessels, which they had said had been struck in international waters, had been safely evacuated.
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.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE said the May attacks on oil assets in the Gulf posed a risk to global oil supplies and regional security.