The incidents of attacks on oil tankers laden with crude and other products in the seas in the Middle East continues unabated as two oil tankers were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman a day ago. about a month ago. Similar attacks had hit four tankers in the region.
The incident first became known when the tankers started to send distress calls from off the coast of the United Arab Emirates near the strategic Strait of Hormuz and they are being helped out by the US navy’s fifth fleet till last reports were available, the media said.
Hezbollah-linked news agencies in Lebanon were the first to report the new of the hits to the tankers. These agencies were also the same that had earlier issued accurate reports in May of attacks on oil tankers that were anchored off the coast of the UAE. Those attacks were blamed on Iran by the US. Tehran has denied such accusations.
Wu I-Fang from Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC, which chartered the tanker, said that tanker called Front Altair and was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha which is a petrochemical feedstock. There were reports in the Iran state media about the sinking of the Front Altair but such reports were later denied by the ship’s operator Frontline.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said that the other ship involved in the incident – the Kokuka Courageous, got damaged in a “suspected attack” which included a breach in its hull above the water line while it was on its way to Singapore from Saudi Arabia. “The ship is safely afloat,” it added.
Forty four crew members of the two tankers were evacuated from the tankers to an Iranian port, reported Iranian state TV.
The incidents were being investigated, said United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations which is a part of the British Royal Navy. “We are deeply concerned by reports of explosions and fires on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. We are in contact with local authorities and partners in the region,” a British government spokeswoman said.
The imposition of “maximum economic pressure” on Iran by the US in its attempt to force Tehran to restart talks on its nuclear program and the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year, has resulted in increased tensions in the Gulf in rent months.
In its defense, Iran has said on more than one occasion that it possessed no knowledge of the incidents and had not been involved in any such sabotage incidents on Gulf shipping, or Saudi oil installations.
The use of sophisticated mines by state-like actors was the conclusion of the probe into the May 12 attacks conducted by the UAE. The investigations however failed to identify the state or organization or the country behind the attacks.
Iran was almost certainly involved, the US national security adviser, John Bolton, has said about the May attacks.
Some have offered an alternative explanation claiming that the attacks were the handiwork of Houthi rebels who are engaged in a pitched fight the Saudi-led forces to get them ousted from Yemen.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)