Gulf of Oman ‘tanker blast’ reports prompt warning


One of the ships damaged in the 12 May attack off the UAEImage copyright

Image caption

One of the ships damaged in the 12 May attack off the UAE

A UK Royal Navy-linked maritime safety group has issued a warning amid reports of explosions involving two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said it was investigating the reports after regional media said the tankers had sent out distress calls.

Crew from the two vessels, said to be the Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous, have been evacuated, Reuters reports.

The incident comes a month after four tankers were attacked off the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates authorities blamed an unnamed “state actor” for those attacks, which involved naval mines. The US said Iran was behind them, which Tehran denied.

The attacks increased long-standing tensions between Iran and the US and its allies in the Gulf.

Oil prices rose as much as 3.9% from a near five-month low following Thursday’s incident, Bloomberg reports.

The naval reserve-manned UKMTO, which co-ordinates information from Dubai, urged “extreme caution” and said it was investigating the incident.

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Media captionWhy does the Strait of Hormuz matter?

A spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said it was also aware of the reports and was investigating.

Reports of the explosions are yet to be officially confirmed by any oil tanker firms or regional governments, but media report fires on both the vessels.

The Kokuka Courageous is Panama-flagged, while Front Altair is Marshall Islands-flagged.

The US under President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Iran, accusing it of being a destabilising force in the Middle East.

The US sent an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region at the start of May in response to what it said was an unspecified plan by Iran-backed forces to attack US forces in the area.

Iran has rejected the claims and has accused the US of aggressive behaviour.

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