For Iran, Wednesday was a day marked by consequential and very public setbacks both at sea and on land.
In the Gulf of Oman, the Khark (multiple spellings of this particular vessel are common: Kharg, Kharq) an Iranian AOR (fleet-type replenishment oiler) experienced a major fire and sank. The incident occurred while the vessel, Iran’s largest, was taking part in exercises near the Strait of Hormuz. The fire broke out at 0225 hours local time on 2 June and spread quickly. As the situation worsened. Khark’s crew was evacuated from the ship with nearby vessels and Iranian military helicopters lending assistance. Khark sank at 0800 hours, six hours after the initial fire broke out. There are no reports of deaths, but two dozen crewmen suffered varying degrees of minor injuries according to Iranian media outlets.
As if this weren’t bad enough, later in the day a major oil refinery located just south of Tehran experienced a near-catastrophic fire. The blaze at the Tondgooyan Petrochemical Company’s refinery began Wednesday evening (local time) and has finally been extinguished following an intense effort by firefighters. A large plume of black smoke was visible over the Iranian capital city for much of the day. Iranian government officials have said the cause of the fire was a leak in two waste tanks at the facility that affected a nearby gas pipeline. There have been no reports of deaths or major damage beyond the refinery grounds.
Investigations are underway to determine the cause of both fires. Industrial accidents are common, especially in Iran where maintenance and repair efforts are irregular and marred by corruption. As far as Khark goes, the Iranian maritime force has been dealing with a series of fires and accidents in recent years which have had a significant effect on the nation’s maritime footprint. Despite the loss of Khark, two Iranian vessels are continuing their trek from home waters towards Venezuela. That will be discussed more later today or tomorrow.
As for the causes of Khark’s loss and the Tondgooyan refinery blaze, if they were not failures of equipment or something similar, then it’s safe to assume the Mossad had a very good Wednesday.