Whatever turns out to be the case, the incident again highlights the vulnerability of the world’s most important energy waterway, one which Iran has periodically threatened to block, in retaliation for international pressure over its nuclear program.
Up to 40 percent of the world’s daily oil supply – including three-quarters of Japan’s needs – traverses the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz chokepoint en route to markets in the West and Asia. Situated between Iran, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, the channel is less than 30 miles across at its narrowest point.
The 160,000-ton M. Star, a Japanese-owned, Marshall islands-flagged supertanker, was anchored off Fujairah in the UAE on Thursday, undergoing inspection of its damaged hull.
A photo released by the UAE’s WAM news agency showed a large, square-shaped dent in the vessel’s hull, near the waterline.
The unexplained incident in Omani waters early Wednesday morning was first described by the owners, Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), as “an explosion which seemed to be an attack from external sources.” The statement that prompted speculation that pirates, terrorists or a military force may have been responsible.
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