Distress calls from two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman prompted the US Navy’s 5th Fleet to assist. Although some news media stated that it could have been a torpedo, some experts believe it might have been a mine or “vessel borne explosive device.” One tanker burned “for hours” and the other was left adrift after hull damage from an explosion. Was it Iran?
“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time and a second one at 7:00 a.m.” Joshua Frey, US 5th Fleet spokesman according to Fox. He stated the USS Bainbridge was dispatched to assist. The President has been briefed.
The crews were evacuated by other ships in the region, the Altair by Hyundai Dubai, and the Kokuka by Vessel Coastal Ace. Norway ship owners have now told their vessels to steer clear of Iranian waters due to the danger.
“Judging from the damage, it doesn’t look like a torpedo, it looks like something smaller, whether that is a vessel-borne improvised explosive device or even a limpet mine. The shipping industry views this as an escalation of the situation, and we are just about as close to a conflict without there being an actual armed conflict, so the tensions are very high.” Jakob P. Larsen, head of maritime security for BIMCO to AP
The MT Front Altair (owned by Norway) immediately caught fire and the Kokuka Courageous (owned by Japan) received hull damage. The Altair was reportedly carrying naphtha, which is flammable. The other ship was carrying methanol.
The attack comes just weeks after four other tankers (Saudi owned) were sabotaged in the region. The UN Security Council plans to meet regarding this situation on Thursday.
The attack came as Japan’s leader, Shinzo Abe was in Tehran meeting with their leaders to attempt to diffuse the tension between the US and Iran. They were not receptive to his statements. According to Japan, the vessels were carrying “Japan-related” cargo. Iran claims the incident is “suspicious.”
Iran knows full well the impact of such an attack in one of the most vulnerable oil transportation areas in the world. The Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz is the shipping route for at least a third of all oil supplied for the world. And of course, oil prices immediately jumped at news of the attacks.
The incident reveals how dangerous that area has become, which threatens the entire world’s supply of oil and related products. And Iran knows it well.
Featured photo: screenshot of one of the tankers in the Gulf of Oman via Twitter