Two oil tankers were damaged this morning in the Gulf of Oman, victims of suspected attacks, although it is yet unclear who the initiator might’ve been. Distress calls were received from the vessels by US naval forces at 0612 local time, and 0700 local time respectively. The tankers involved in the attacks were the MT Front Altair, a Norwegian-owned vessel flagged in the Marshall Islands and the Kokua Courageous. The second tanker is Japanese-owned, and Panama-flagged. For insurance purposes, many merchant vessels, and oil tankers fly the flags of smaller, obscure nations even though the owners of the ships are usually companies based in larger First World nations. The US destroyer USS Bainbridge responded to the Kokua Courageous distress call and rescued 21 sailors.
These attacks come one month after two oil tankers were attacked off of the United Arab Emirates. That previous attack came as US-Iran tensions in the region were growing. The US has blamed Iran for the attack, but Tehran denied it.
This time around, initial suspicions are again going to be on Iran. Not surprisingly, Iranian government officials were fast in expressing shock over this morning’s attacks and attempting to distance Tehran from events in the Gulf of Oman. Also, coming as no surprise is the effect the attacks are having on oil markets. Crude prices have risen 4.5% in morning trading. The prospect of a possible US-Iran confrontation has shaken energy markets lately.
More updates will come later today, and in the evening.