Oil Tanker Explosions in Gulf of Oman: Everything We Know About Blasts, Fires As U.S. Navy Races to Assist

Two oil tankers are reportedly ablaze on the Gulf of Oman after being hit by explosions, according to Iranian media reports.

The incident, details of which are still emerging, has prompted an uptick in crude oil prices. The cause is not yet clear, but reports suggest a similarity with attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last month, which was blamed on Iran.

According to Press TV, the Iranian Al-Alam television network cited sources in Oman as saying that two explosions were heard in the Sea of Oman on Thursday morning. The sources suggested the explosions were the result of an attack, though a cause is as yet unconfirmed.

Reuters confirmed that two tankers were on fire in the Gulf. Bloomberg named the vessels as the Kokuka Courageous—which was sailing from Saudi Arabia to Singapore with a cargo of methanol—and the Front Altair—which had just loaded an oil shipment in Abu Dhabi.

The manager of the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous said the vessel "has been damaged as a result of the suspected attack," Bloomberg reported.

Bernhard Schulte GmbH & Co KG, which operates the vessel, explained in a statement posted to its website that the ship's "hull has been breached above the water line on the starboard side...All crew are reported safe and only one minor injury reported." The injured man is being treated aboard the Coastal Ace vessel.

A company spokesperson told Reuters that 21 crew abandoned ship after the explosion. The spokesperson added that while the ship has sustained damage, it is in no danger of sinking.

The Front Altair is owned by Norwegian company Frontline Ltd and is registered in the Marshall Islands. International Tanker Management, which operates the vessel, told the Associated Press that its 23 crew had been evacuated by the Hyundai Dubai vessel, which was nearby.

Iranian state media said the nation had rescued 44 sailors from the two vessels and taken them to a port in Iran.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is headquartered in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, said in a statement that it was "aware of the reported attack on tankers on the Gulf of Oman," the AP reported. The fleet said it was assisting the two tankers affected, but did not elaborate on any possible cause of the explosions and subsequent fires.

Reuters cited anonymous sources saying the crew on both tankers had been successfully evacuated and were safe, even though the vessels are reportedly still burning.

The AP noted that the benchmark Brent crude oil price rose by more than 4 percent in trading on Thursday morning as fears grew among traders that oil supply could be disrupted. The ships were hit having just passed through the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. Around 20 percent of all oil produced worldwide passes through the waterway.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is currently in Iran for a two-day visit. Japan's Trade Ministry said the two tankers targeted were carrying "Japan-related" cargo, without elaborating further, the AP reported.

The incident could well spark further tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Last month, Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on four tankers off the coast of the UAE. The U.S. claims that Iranian agents used limpet mines to target the ships, none of which sunk despite sustaining damage.

As yet, there is no clear indication of state involvement in Thursday's incident.

This article has been updated to include more information about the incident.

oil tanker, Gulf of Oman, attack, explosion
This file photo shows a cargo ship near the southeastern Iranian city of Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman, on February 25, 2019. Getty/ATTA KENARE/AFP
Oil Tanker Explosions in Gulf of Oman: Everything We Know About Blasts, Fires As U.S. Navy Races to Assist | News