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Damaged tankers being assessed off UAE

Kokuka Courageous has arrived safely at anchorage off UAE, where it will undergo damage assessment followed by preparation for a ship-to-ship transfer of cargo, while the other tanker, Front Altair, is now being towed toward the offshore part of Fujairah, where it will be inspected by a specialist team

Frontline says it will ‘exercise extreme caution’ when considering new fixtures in the Gulf region, although the cause of the explosions remains unknown to the shipowner

THE two product tankers hit by blasts in the Gulf of Oman are being assessed off the United Arab Emirates, while officials in Washington and Riyadh have been very quick off the mark to point the finger at Iran, accusing it of responsibility for the attacks.

Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous had arrived safely at the designated anchorage at Kalba, UAE, with damage assessment and preparation for the ship-to-ship transfer cargo to start upon completion of security check by the port authorities, said the shipmanager BSM Ship Management on Sunday.

“Our crew remain on board the Kokuka Courageous. They are safe and well,” the company added.

The 21 crew members were returned to the vessel by the US Navy after being rescued.

The vessel was damaged in attacks using explosives on June 13 which also targeted Front Altair owned by Frontline Ltd.

The Norwegian owner said in a statement on Saturday that a specialist team would inspect the tanker and advise on how to unload the naphtha on board. The ship is now being towed toward the offshore part of Fujairah emirate.

“The 23 crew members on board Front Altair are unharmed after being rescued by the cargo vessel Hyundai Dubai and subsequently carried by an Iranian naval vessel to the port city of Jask.” 

Associated Press journalists reported seeing crew members of the Front Altair after their Iran Air flight landed in Dubai on Saturday.

The attacks in a vital oil shipping route have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region.

The US has blamed forces linked to Iran for the attack, and has provided what it claims is video proof.

Washington — which is already involved in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear programme — has also linked Tehran to a limpet mine attack in May on four other oil tankers.

Iran has strenuously denied any involvement in any of the attacks.

On Saturday, it summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to complain about its “unacceptable stance” after the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt give his backing to the US, the ISNA news agency reported.

The United Arab Emirates has joined with shipping companies to increase sea-lane security in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing Gulf officials familiar with the discussions.

“It’s a difficult situation and there may be more attacks,” said Theodore Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, whose members control around a third of the world’s crude tankers and 15% of chemical and product tankers. “The threat to crews and ships is high.”

Shipping industry groups have also offered advice for captains and crews operating in the region. The Norwegian Maritime Authority advised captains to keep a safe distance from Iranian watersand called for increased patrols, including in ports and on vessels.

BIMCO recommended measures such as increased onboard patrols, notably in non-restricted areas of vessels. It also advised crews and captains to make sure hulls are well secured by closing doors and hatches that could be entered from the outside, and ensure that crews sleep in areas located above the waterline

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said “there must be a rapid and decisive response to the threat” to energy supplies, market stability and consumer confidence after the attacks in the Gulf area, the Saudi Energy Ministry reported on Twitter.

The attacks seem to have pushed up tanker freight rates as shipowners are becoming more concerned about the safety in the region.

Daily earnings for very large crude carriers jumped nearly 16% on the day to $16,000 on the back of better performance out of the Middle East Gulf, Clarksons noted on Friday.

Owners were said to be halting new fixtures, although vessels bound for the region that have just loaded and are several weeks away are still continuing their voyages for now.

“Frontline will exercise extreme caution when considering new contracts in the region,” the company stated.

US officials claim the video shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the explosions that damaged Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” US President Donald Trump told Fox News on June 14.

US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Washington was “planning various contingencies” when asked if more military forces would be sent to the area.

“We also need to broaden our support for this international situation,” he told reporters.

Other nations have urged caution.

Germany said the video was not enough to prove Iran’s role, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation to determine responsibility. China and the European Union called for restraint.

The June 13 attacks followed weeks of simmering tension in the region between Iran and the US in the wake of the Trump administration’s exit last year from the multinational 2015 nuclear deal and imposition of sanctions on Tehran.

Washington’s stated aim is to drive Iranian oil exports, the mainstay of its economy, to zero.

Tehran has said that if its oil exports were halted, it could block the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel of water separating Iran and Oman through which a fifth of the oil consumed globally passes.

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