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Pompeo: Tanker Attacks Fulfill Iranian Promise

Credit: Dryad Global
Credit: Dryad Global

By The Maritime Executive 2019-06-13 19:53:22

Two tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz on a south easterly course were attacked on Thursday, sparking condemnation across the maritime industry. 

The two vessels involved were the crude oil tanker Front Altair and the chemical tanker Kokuka Courageous. Both crews have abandoned ship after explosions occurred on the vessels.

Front Altair is Marshall Islands flagged, and Kokua Courageous Panama-flagged. The Front Altair is believed to be carrying 75,000 tons of Naptha originating from Abu Dhabi’s ANDOC. The Kokuka Courageous is believed to be carrying methanol, originating from Saudi’s Sabic and also Qatar. 

Unconfirmed reports have been received by Dryad Global sources indicating that vessels from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were the first vessels on scene to offer assistance. It is believed that this assistance was refused by the crew of the Front Altair, however unconfirmed reporting indicates that the crew of the Kokuka Couragous may have been taken to the Iranian Port of Bandar-e-Jask.
 
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, reports Dryad Maritime.

Video courtesy of Spire Global:

Pompeo: 40 Years of Unprovoked Aggression

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said: “It is the assessment of the United States Government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today. This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

Pompeo says it is the latest in a series of attacks instigated by Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests, and they should be understood in the context of 40 years of unprovoked aggression, most recently including:

On April 22, Iran promised the world that it would interrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. It is now working to execute on that promise, says Pompeo. In early May, the Revolutionary Guard Corps attempted the covert deployment of modified dhows capable of launching missiles.

On May 12, Iran attacked four commercial ships near the Strait of Hormuz. On May 14, Iran-backed surrogates attacked by armed drones — struck two strategically important oil pipelines into Saudi Arabia.

On May 19, a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

On May 31, a car bomb in Afghanistan wounded four U.S. service members, killed four Afghan civilians, and wounded bystanders.

Yesterday, Iranian surrogates fired a missile into Saudi Arabia, striking the arrivals terminal of an international airport, injuring 26 people.

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” said Pompeo.

“Prime Minister Abe made a trip, a historic trip to Iran, to ask the regime to de-escalate and enter into talks. Iran’s supreme leader rejected Prime Minister Abe’s diplomacy today by saying he has no response to President Trump and will not answer. The supreme leader’s government then insulted Japan by attacking a Japanese oil tanker just outside of Iranian waters, threatening the lives of the entire crew, creating a maritime emergency.”

Iran’s foreign minister responded to the attacks, saying: “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” 

Pompeo retorts: “Foreign Minister Zarif may think this is funny, but no one else in the world does. Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted. No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail. The international community condemns Iran’s assault on the freedom of navigation and the targeting of innocent civilians.”

Pompeo has instructed the U.S.'s U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen to raise Iran’s attacks in the U.N. Security Council meeting later this afternoon. He says: “Iran should meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not with terror, bloodshed, and extortion. The United States will defend its forces, interests, and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability. And we call upon all nations threatened by Iran’s provocative acts to join us in that endeavor.”

Shipping Threat

Dryad deems that the threat from Thursday's event does not span into the wider Gulf of Oman, and vessels transiting through the Gulf are deemed to be safe. Vessels are advised to follow BMP5 best practice, and request routinely updated security briefings, when transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has condemned the suspected attacks. Speaking during the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 101st session at IMO Headquarters in London, Lim said: 
"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." 

The Board of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has also expressed concern. “This suspected attack is a deeply worrying and intolerable situation. We await further clarification and information as to what has happened, but we are relieved that there appears to have been no loss of life and that the crews are reportedly safe, ” said Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General. “This is the second incident in one month and the shipping industry, and most importantly the crews,  must not be exposed to such risks. The Straits of Hormuz are crucial for the world economy, and any deliberate attempts to threaten traffic through them are to be condemned in the strongest terms.”