The United States dispatched a guided missile destroyer to the Gulf of Oman on Thursday after two oil tankers suffered what the U.S. Navy has called a “reported attack.”
“The USS Bainbridge was dispatched after the vessels suffered damage off the coast of Iran,” NBC News reported, citing Fifth Fleet spokesman Joshua Frey.
“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local (Bahrain) time and a second one at 7:00 a.m,” Frey said in a statement.
The crew of a Norwegian tanker had to be rescued after the ship hit a magnetic mine, a source told Reuters.
The tanker, owned by Norway’s Frontline, was carrying naphtha, a highly flammable petrochemical feedstock. The ship caught fire, but NBC reported that the entire crew made it to safety.
“We’re trying to establish what’s happened on board,” Martin Baxendale, a spokesperson for International Tanker Management, said in a statement to NBC.
In the other incident, a Japanese-owned tanker was hit by a suspected torpedo that started a fire.
“We received word that our ship was attacked,” Yutaka Katada, president of Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, which owns the tanker, said a news conference Thursday.
— Press TV (@PressTV) June 13, 2019
NBC reported that the tanker’s 21 crew members had to abandon ship, but “were picked up by a nearby Dutch-flagged tugboat.”
That attack on the Japanese-owned ship occurred as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was finishing up a two-day visit to Iran.
In a tweet Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the incident “suspicious.”
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he said.
Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.
Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 13, 2019
Both incidents happened in relatively close proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, where nearly 20 percent of the oil that’s consumed globally passes through.
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, or INTERTANKO, expressed some concern over tankers passing through the increasingly dangerous Strait of Hormuz.
“Following two attacks on Member vessels this morning, I am extremely worried about the safety of our crews going through the Strait of Hormuz,” Paolo d’Amico, INTERTANKO’s chairman, said in a statement.
“If the waters are becoming unsafe,” he said, “the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk.”
As of Thursday morning, it was unclear who was behind the two incidents.
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