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Two oil tankers ‘attacked’ in Gulf of Oman

14 June 2019

Two oil tankers have suffered explosions in the Gulf of Oman in what has been described as an ‘attack’. The explosions, which occurred on June 13, come just a month after four tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May.

The Front Altair after explosion - Image: Mehr News Agency/Wikimedia
The Front Altair after explosion - Image: Mehr News Agency/Wikimedia

The Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous were both abandoned following the explosions. The cause of the blasts is yet to be determined, but the incident is likely to add to the growing tensions between Iran and its neighbouring states, as well as the US.

According to the BBC, Iran has denied any connection with the suspected attacks in response to the US blaming Iran. No country or group has accepted responsibility for the incident which occurred in one of the world’s busiest oil routes.

After the initial explosion, the Front Altair thought it had been hit by a torpedo, while other reports are suggesting that mines were used in the attacks, the BBC reports. Neither of the explanations have been confirmed.

The incidents happened in the Gulf of Oman, a highly important shipping route that leads into the Strait of Hormuz. The Front Altair was carrying around 75,000 tonnes naphtha, whereas the Kokuka Courageous was shipping methanol. Reuters reports that crude oil prices have spiked by 4% following the attack on Thursday.

On Thursday, the US military released a video of what it claimed to be an Iranian patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous and removing an unexploded mine. This reflects the findings of a recent UAE report which says that divers used limpet mines to attack four vessels last month off the coast of the country.

An attack on tankers in international waters is likely to cause a significant rise in tensions in the Middle East. 

Tensions in the area have been growing steadily over the last year, mainly as a result of the US pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal. Following the breakdown of the deal, President Donald Trump implemented a number of sanctions on Iran, many of which focused on the oil sector. Since then, the US has increased the presence of its armed forces in response to possible Iranian attacks on US assets.

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