Two more ships hit in Gulf waters

Ships from the US 5th Fleet operating in Gulf waters responded to separate distress calls from two oil tankers plying in the Gulf of Oman, on Thursday morning, according to a report from the Fleet.

The US Navy began rendering assistance to two oil tankers after they sent out distress calls at 6:12am and 7:00am respectively, on the morning of Thursday, 13 June. Crew from both vessels were safely evacuated, added a navy spokesperson.

The two vessels, the Front Altair flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, and the Kokuka Courageous plying under the Panama flag were reportedly hit by mines in waters of the Gulf of Oman. Media in the region had earlier reported of explosions and fires onboard the two ships.

The new explosions, which come in the wake of four other tankers that were hit in the Gulf waters off the United Arab Emirates coast in May, has raised tensions in a region already on tenterhooks and sent the price of oil up by nearly 4 percent.

Both vessels were reportedly hit while in the Gulf of Oman, around 108km off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE and 26km off the coast of Iran. The US has accused Iran of being responsible for the attack which was found to involve naval mines. The US had leveled similar charges after the attacks in May. Iran denied both charges and charged the US and its allies in the Gulf of warmongering.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) safety group, linked to the UK Royal Navy, had earlier issued a warning, urging “extreme caution” in the area.

A spokesman for Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC Corp, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and that the crew had been rescued to safety. For its part, BSM Ship Management, which operates the Kokuka Courageous that carried methanol, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.