Two tankers, Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous, were on Thursday morning abandoned in the Gulf of Oman following torpedo attacks on them.
The Front Altair was loaded with 75,000 tonnes of naphtha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon.
The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) confirmed that the Marshall Islands-flagged aframax Front Altair was attacked at 6.03 am on Thursday in waters between the UAE and Iran.
The NMA said, “There were reportedly three detonations on board the ship. The crew have been rescued by a passing ship and no injuries are reported.
“The ship is now on fire, and measures to resolve the situation have been implemented.”
The crew of the Frontline tanker were reportedly rescued by the Hyundai Dubai.
Multiple reports have said the vessel was hit by a torpedo, although the Norwegian authorities said the background to the attacks was not entirely clear.
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said, “Both vessels appear to have indicated that they believe the attack originated from the surface, however further reports from the Front Altair indicate that the hull was breached on the starboard side partially below the waterline.”
A statement from the US Navy 5th Fleet said, “We are aware of the reported attack on shipping vessels in the Gulf of Oman. U. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 am local (Bahrain) time and a second one at 7:00 am. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is rendering assistance.”
The crew product carrier the Kokuka Courageous, which was loaded with methanol, abandoned ship “after the incident on board which resulted in damage to the ship’s hull starboard side” according to a statement from manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM).
The company said the 21 crew were rescued from a lifeboat by the car carrier Coastal Ace, which was nearby. It said one seafarer was slightly injured and receiving medical attention.
“The Kokuka Courageous remains in the area and is not in any danger of sinking. The cargo of methanol is intact.
“BSM’s top priority is the wellbeing of the 21 crew on board our managed vessel. The Coastal Ace is in the vicinity at a safe distance from the Kokuka Courageous.”
The vessel is about 70nm from Fujairah and about 14nm from the coast of Iran.
The incident comes at the time of heightened tensions in the region and threats to commercial shipping following the attacks on four merchant vessels anchored in the Port of Fujairah recently, which have been blamed on Iran.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has raised the security level for vessels sailing in the Straits of Hormuz and advised ships to remain well clear of Iranian waters following the attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday morning.
The Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous were both attacked in the Gulf of Oman, reportedly hit by torpedoes and forced their crew to abandon ship.
The NMA said that due to the unconfirmed nature of the attacks, it was advising Norwegian-flagged vessels to “keep well clear of Iranian waters”.
It also raised the ISPS/MarSec security level to level two for vessels arriving Strait of Hormuz within the boundaries of N25° – N28° and E054° -E058° .
“The situation in the affected area may change, and shipowners and masters are encouraged to follow the development through Norwegian Shipowner’s Association closely,” the authority said.
Also, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim has condemned the attacks.
Speaking on Thursday during the 101st session of Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in London, Lim said, “These suspected attacks, coupled with the attacks in the UAE last month, concern me greatly. IMO has developed a comprehensive regime of regulation through the ISPS Code and the SUA Conventions and Protocols to prevent and respond to unprovoked, unlawful attacks on merchant shipping.
“The threat to ships and their crews, peaceably going about their business, is intolerable. I urge all Member States to redouble their efforts to work together to find a lasting solution to ensure the safety and security of
international shipping around the globe and protection of the marine environment.
“I will carefully review the results of the investigations, once they are completed, to consider if additional IMO action is warranted.”
BIMCO has also urged nations to cooperate and de-escalate tensions after the attacks.
Secretary-General/CEO of BIMCO, Angus Frew, said, “We strongly call for nations to do what they can to de-escalate tensions and ensure the safe passage of merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
“It is unacceptable that the lives of innocent seafarers are put at risk in these unprovoked attacks.”
BIMCO Head of Maritime Security, Jakob Larsen, said, “The increase in attacks and the escalated threat to seafarers is an urgent concern to the industry. Following the two most recent attacks, and while we await the results of the investigations of the attacks, the tension in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is now as high as it gets without being an actual armed conflict.”