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Tankers Attacked Again in Gulf of Oman, Raising Fears of Wider Conflict

Category: Business,Finance

The Norwegian newspaper VG quoted a Frontline spokesman as saying that its ship was on fire and that all 23 crew members had been rescued. Maritime tracking websites say the Front Altair, registered in the Marshall Islands, had left the Emirati port of Ruwais, headed to Kaohsiung, in Taiwan.

The other tanker, the Panamanian-flagged Kokuka Courageous, was carrying methanol, and the Iranian state news media reported that it, too, was on fire. It was reportedly headed from the Saudi port of Al Jubail to Singapore. Both the ship’s owner and its operator said that all 21 crew members had abandoned ship and were later rescued by a nearby vessel.

“We received a report that our ship was attacked,” Yutaka Katada, the president of the ship’s operator, Kokuka Sangyo, said at a news conference. The crew, all Filipinos, “kept trying to avoid the attacks, but again received an attack three hours later. So crew members left the ship by lifeboats.”

The tanker’s owner, Bernhard Shulte, said in a statement that it had sustained damage to the hull on the starboard side and that one crew member had been slightly injured. The ship “ is not in any danger of sinking,” the company said. “The cargo of methanol is intact.”

Iran’s state news media confirmed the attacks on the two tankers and the rescue of 44 mariners. The news channel IRINN said a rescue team from the southern Iranian province of Horozgan had picked up the crew of the ship carrying the Panamanian flag.

Japan’s Trade Ministry said both ships were carrying “Japan-related cargo.”

“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman,” the United States Fifth Fleet said in a brief statement. “U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time and a second one at 7 a.m.”

The fleet said the U.S.S. Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, was “rendering assistance.”

An arm of the British Navy, United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, reported that “U.K. and its partners are currently investigating” an incident in the gulf, about 50 miles east of the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, but offered no details.

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