Two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, leaving one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices as much as 4 percent higher over worries about Middle East supplies.
The Front Altair, carrying petrochemical feedstock, was on fire in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after an explosion that a source blamed on a magnetic mine. The Norwegian owner said its crew was safe.
A second Japanese-owned tanker was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. The crew was also picked up. Thursday’s attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies.
“We need to remember that some 30 percent of the world’s (seaborne) crude oil passes through the Straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk,” said Paolo d’Amico, Chairman of INTERTANKO tanker association.
Thursday’s attacks came as Shinzo Abe – prime minister of US ally Japan, a big importer of Iranian oil until Washington ratcheted up sanctions – visited Tehran with a message from Trump and urged all sides not to let tensions escalate.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incidents as “suspicious” on Twitter, noting that they occurred during Abe's visit to Tehran. He called for regional dialogue.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said the Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the waterline while transporting methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
It said the ship was afloat and the crew safe with one minor injury reported. A shipping broker said the blast that struck the Kokuka Courageous might have been caused by a magnetic mine. “Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew on board,” the source said.
Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo, the owner of the Kokuka Courageous, said its ship was hit twice over a three-hour period. Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC said the Front Altair, owned by Norway’s Frontline, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” around 0400 GMT, as it carried 75,000 tonnes of the petrochemical feedstock naphtha to Taiwan.
Frontline said its vessel was on fire but afloat, denying a report by the Iranian news agency IRNA that the vessel had sunk.
The master of the Front Altair ordered the 23-member crew to abandon ship after a blast, International Tanker Management, the technical manager of the vessel, said in a statement. It said the crew was picked up by the nearby Hyundai Dubai.
The Front Altair loaded its cargo from Ruwais in the UAE, according to trade sources and shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon.
Thursday’s suspected attacks came a day after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis fired a missile on an airport in Saudi Arabia, injuring 26 people. The Houthis also claimed an armed drone strike last month on Saudi oil pumping stations.