Thursday, May 16, 2019

Concern for Commercial Vessels in Persian Gulf as Four Ships Attacked and Damaged

Threat of Ballistic Missiles Prompts Deployment of Carrier Strike Group
Shipping News Feature
PERSIAN GULF – US – IRAN – Tension had been escalating between the US and its traditional adversaries with an advisory notice last week to commercial shipping that there may imminently be attacks on vessels with a view to damage the oil production lines. The warning came just days after the US moved an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the area after intelligence reports said that Iran was moving short range ballistic missiles into the Gulf.

Latest reports indicate that four oil tankers, two under Saudi ownership and one each from the UAE and Norway had suffered damage after attacks by as yet unidentified assailants. The US was however blaming Iran or its proxies for the sabotage attacks after it appears explosives were used to perforate the vessels hulls close to the waterline.

The attacks come after Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and at least two of the stricken ships were carrying US bound oil cargoes. The explosions occurred in UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman near the coast of the state of Fujairah.

The advisory is in place until 5th November and is another very public warning to Iran that the US is aware of its activities in the region. Having pulled back certain munitions over past months such as Patriot missiles Mr Trump’s administration is apparently now considering redeploying them. The increased military activity was announced by US national security adviser John Bolton who confirmed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force were en route to the Gulf.

A US official said they were monitoring Iranian activity in a bid to identify a ‘decrease in Iran’s posture or intentions. We are looking for anything to reflect a change in their behaviour and are not seeing it’ and the advisory went on:

"Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against US and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.

”Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf."

Photo: The stricken Norwegian tanker Andrea Victory with the hole in her hull clearly visible.