MOGADISHU, Somalia – An oil tanker owned by Norwegian shipping agency sunk after being damaged in an incident in the Gulf of Oman.
Norwegian oil tanker was attacked in Gulf of Oman as three explosions on board, according to Iranian news agency.Iranian state TV reported 44 crew had been evacuated from the tankers to an Iranian port.
The UK Guardian wrote”United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is part of the Royal Navy, said it was investigating. “We are deeply concerned by reports of explosions and fires on vessels in the strait of Hormuz. We are in contact with local authorities and partners in the region,” said a UK government spokeswoman.
Tensions in the Gulf have been close to boiling point for weeks as the US puts “maximum economic pressure” on Iran in an attempt to force Tehran to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year.
The latest incident came as the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, held talks with the Iranian leadership in Tehran in an effort to find a basis for discussions between the US and Iran. The Japanese stressed they were not bringing specific messages from the US president, Donald Trump, and said nothing that they had heard in the first day of talks suggested a breakthrough was imminent.
Japan’s trade ministry said the two oil tankers involved in Thursday’s incidents carried “Japan-related” cargo.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described Thursday’s developments as “suspicious” and implied that the fault lay with a person or group trying to damage his country.
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he tweeted, adding that the incidents took place while Abe was meeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, “for extensive and friendly talks”.
An inquiry by the UAE into the attacks on 12 May found the sophisticated mines were used by state-like actors, but stopped short of blaming Iran or any other state as the culprit. The US national security adviser, John Bolton, said Iran was almost certainly involved. An alternative explanation is that the attacks were undertaken by Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-led efforts to oust them from Yemen.
Iran has repeatedly said it had no knowledge of the attacks and had not instructed any surrogate forces to attack Gulf shipping or Saudi oil installations.
Paul d’Amico from the tanker association Intertanko said he was extremely worried about the safety of crews going through the strait of Hormuz. “We need to remember that some 30% of the world’s [seaborne] crude oil passes through the strait. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire western world could be at risk,” he said.
Iran’s foreign minister warns US ‘cannot expect to stay safe’
In a sign of how the Yemen civil war and the wider US-Iranian tensions are becoming intertwined, Riyadh accused Tehran of ordering a Yemeni rebel missile strike that wounded 26 people at a Saudi airport on Wednesday.
“The continuation of the Iranian regime’s aggression and reckless escalation, whether directly or through its militias, will result in grave consequences,” Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said.
Iran and the Yemeni rebels both follow branches of Shia Islam but Tehran has always denied providing more than moral support to the rebels.
The rebels say missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia are one of the few ways they can retaliate after more than four years of bombing by the Saudi-led coalition, which has exacted a heavy civilian death toll in Yemen.