Two oil tankers were struck Thursday in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, leading oil prices to surge and ramping up tensions in the Middle East.
One of the vessels hit near the strategic Strait of Hormuz was adrift and on fire, according to the US Navy.
The New York Post Reports:
Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, said the Navy was assisting the two vessels. He did not say how the ships were attacked or who was suspected of launching the attack.
The two ships were identified as the Kokuka Courageous, which flies a Panamanian flag and is owned by Japan-based Kokuka Sangyo, according to CNN. It was carrying methanol to Singapore.
All of the 21 crew members, one of whom was injured, were evacuated. The ship is not in danger of sinking, its management company BSM said.
The other tanker, Front Altair, was flying a Marshall Islands flag and is owned by Bermuda-based Frontline, CNN reported. It was transporting naphtha, a type of crude oil, to Taiwan.
Its 23-member, unharmed crew was evacuated.
Benchmark Brent crude jumped 4 percent in trading following the reported attack, to more than $62 a barrel, according to early market figures Thursday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the incident, according to the news outlet.
He said news of the reported attacks broke while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry both ships were carrying “Japan-related cargo.”
Abe’s trip to Tehran is viewed as an attempt to mediate US-Iran tensions and also is the first trip by a Japanese prime minister since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Kokuka Courageous was “attacked” twice with “some sort of shell,” an official from Kokuka Sangyo told CNN.
A South Korean company confirmed that the Front Altair’s crew was rescued by one of its cargo ships sailing in the area.
The Seoul-based Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. cited the crew of its Hyundai Dubai cargo vessel as saying that there were three rounds of explosion sounds at the Front Altair before it sent an emergency distress call.
The Strait of Hormuz is a major strategic waterway through which a fifth of global oil consumption passes from Middle East producers.
There was no immediate confirmation of Thursday’s incident from authorities in Oman or the United Arab Emirates, in whose territorial waters four tankers were hit in May.
An investigation blamed limpet mines for those attacks, according to Reuters. Saudi Arabia and the US blamed Iran for those attacks, a charge Tehran denies.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said attacks on oil assets in the region pose a risk to global oil supplies and regional security.
On Wednesday, after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Abe warned that any “accidental conflict” that could be sparked amid the heightened US-Iran tensions must be avoided.
His message came shortly after Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi airport, hitting the arrivals hall and wounding 26 people.
From The New York Post