Two oil tankers on fire in Gulf of Oman, UK maritime urges extreme caution

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet says it is assisting two oil tankers targeted in the reported attack.

Two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, were reportedly attacked on Thursday, the US Navy said, with one adrift and on fire amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran and a high-stakes visit by the Japanese prime minister to Iran.

Latest updates:

2:20pm

Japan sets up task force after attacks: Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said that all crew members were safely rescued. He said the government has set up a task force and that the government has informed the shipping industry to use precautions.

1:50pm

Norwegian tanker attacked with three blasts: The Norwegian tanker Front Altair was “attacked”, with three explosions but no injuries reported on board, the Norwegian Maritime Authority said.

“Today, June 13 at 6:03 am, the Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, was attacked,” the statement said. “Three explosions on board the vessel were reported. The crew boarded a passing vessel and no injuries have been reported.”

12:44pm

Japan’s Trade Ministry says two oil tankers reportedly attacked near Strait of Hormuz carried ‘Japan-related cargo’

12:30pm

Oil prices jump after attack: Oil prices spiked by about three per cent after a reports of an “attack” on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

12:15pm

Frontline says its Front Altair tanker on fire: The Norwegian shipping firm Frontline confirmed that its oil tanker Front Altair was on fire after an incident in the Gulf of Oman, Norwegian newspaper VG reported, quoting a company spokesman.

All 23 crew members were brought to safety at a nearby vessel, the spokesman added.

12:06pm

Tanker Kokuka Courageous damage: The Kokuka Courageous tanker was damaged in a security incident in the Gulf of Oman, a spokesman for the vessel’s manager BSM Ship Management (Singapore) said.

One crew man from the Kokuka Courageous was slightly injured in the incident and received first aid on board the Coastal Ace.

12:00pm

21 sailors evacuated off targeted Kokuka Courageous, one slightly injured; ship sustained hull damage, said shipping firm.

11:55am

Shipping firm identifies second ship targeted in reported Gulf of Oman attack as the Kokuka Courageous.

11:45am

US Navy assisting 2 targeted tankers: The US Navy’s 5th Fleet says it is assisting two oil tankers targeted in the “reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.”

The Bahrain-based force did not elaborate on who attacked what it described as two oil tankers. It also did not blame anyone for the attack.

The 5th Fleet said it had sent naval forces to the area to assist the two vessels. One has been identified as the MT Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker.

A private maritime intelligence firm says the Front Altair is adrift and on fire.

11:30am

UK maritime urges extreme caution: A UK maritime safety group warned of an unspecified incident in the Gulf of Oman and urged “extreme caution” amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran and a high-stakes visit by the Japanese prime minister to Iran.

Iranian media claimed – without offering any evidence – that there had been an explosion in the area targeting oil tankers.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy, put out the alert but did not elaborate on the incident. It said it was investigating.

Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said his command was “aware” of a reported incident in the area. He declined to elaborate.

“We are working on getting details,” Frey said.

Benchmark Brent crude rose over 4 per cent in trading, to over $62 a barrel after reports of the incident, according to early market figures on Thursday.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, preliminarily identified the vessel involved as the MT Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker. The vessel was “on fire and adrift,” Dryad added. It did not offer a cause for the incident.

The maritime alert comes after what the United States has described as Iranian attacks on four oil tankers nearby, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Iran has denied being involved.

Abe to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader

The timing was especially sensitive as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran on a high-stakes diplomacy mission. 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.

Abe was to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the second and final day of his visit.

Abe’s Iran trip not meant to mediate row with US: Official

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a top government spokesman, told reporters that Abe’s trip was intended to help de-escalate tensions in the Mideast – but not specifically mediate between Tehran and Washington.

His remarks were apparently meant to downplay and lower expectations amid uncertain prospects for Abe’s mission.

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