UPDATE: US Navy releases footage saying it shows Iranian military removing an unexploded magnetic mine.
UPDATE: The U.S. Navy has released video footage of what it claims are Iranian military forces removing an unexploded magnetic mine from the hull of the Courageous.
Iran responded immediately to accusations in the United Nations, stating: “Iran categorically rejects the U.S. unfounded claim. The U.S. economic war and terrorism against the Iranian people as well as its massive military presence in the region have been and continue to be the main sources of insecurity and instability in the wider Persian Gulf region and the most significant threat to its peace and security. Neither fabrications and disinformation campaigns nor shamelessly blaming others can change the realities. The U.S. and its regional allies must stop warmongering and put an end to mischievous plots as well as false flag operations in the region.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Two oil tankers are drifting in the Gulf of Oman, one of them ablaze, following what appears to be a torpedo attack. It follows a similar attack last month, which targetted four tankers docked in the United Arab Emirates.
Front Altair was chartered by Taiwanese state oil refiner CPC, loaded with a cargo of 75,000 tonnes of naphtha, a petrochemical feedstock. Iranian news agency IRNA claimed the vessel had sunk, a claim denied by Frontline, the tanker's operator. The other tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, has reportedly suffered a hull breach above the waterline. It was en route between Saudi Arabia and Singapore when the attack happened. Operator Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement made a statement that “the ship is safely afloat”. All crew members from both tankers have reportedly been evacuated.
The explosions were first reported by Lebanese news agencies linked to Hezbollah. The same agencies were also the first to report on last month's attacks. Oil prices spiked as a result of the news, which comes as the US puts Iran under economic pressure regarding the 2015 nuclear deal. Complicating matters further, Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, is in Tehran attempting to mediate talks between Iran and the US. The Japanese trade ministry has said that both tankers attacked were carrying "Japan-related" cargo.
The U.S. Navy's fifth fleet is assisting both stricken vessels.
The situation has troubling echoes of the 1980s, when war in the Middle East saw the US involved its largest naval deployment since the Second World War. Ship Show looked back on that period just yesterday.
We await more news as the situation unfolds.