Two tankers were struck by explosions in the Gulf of Oman today, raising fears of escalating threats to vessels as the busy shipping lanes were targeted by what was believed to be projectiles or underwater mines.
“We are aware of the reported attack on shipping vessels in the Gulf of Oman,” U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs said in a brief statement. “U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local (Bahrain) time and a second one at 7:00 a.m. on 13 June. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) rendered assistance.”
Bermuda-based Norwegian company Frontline owns the Marshall Islands-flagged “Front Altair” oil tanker, which was chartered by Taiwanese refiner CPC Corp, loaded in Abu Dhabi and experienced multiple explosions of unknown origin. Fire broke out on board the ship and the 23-member crew was safely evacuated.
The Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned Kokura Courageous, managed by Singapore-based BSM, was struck twice over the span of three hours by “some sort of shell,” ship co-manager Michio Yuube said, damaging the hull above the water line and injuring one crew member. All 21 of the crew were evacuated.
The Japanese ship, carrying methanol from Saudia Arabia to Singapore, was near the Strait of Hormuz at the Emirati port of Fujairah when hit.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said the crewmembers were taken to Jask Port in east of southern Iranian province of Hormuzgan and “their nationalities are under investigation.”
“Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks,” tweeted Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning. Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.”
President Trump “has been briefed on the attack on ships in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. Government is providing assistance and will continue to assess the situation,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
The U.S. and Saudis blamed Iran for four tankers struck by limpet mines in the gulf last month. Iran has denied the charges. The UAE called for an international probe into tanker attacks.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said today the UN Security Council should take action as “some parties in our region are trying to instigate fires in our region and we must be aware of that.”
The global community must “send an unequivocal and unambiguous message to our neighbors that subversive activities are no longer acceptable,” he said, including “concealing themselves behind regional proxies or gray zone operation that are non-attributable to their original perpetrators.”
— Press TV (@PressTV) June 13, 2019