Crew on board Gulf oil tanker ‘saw a flying object’ before explosion
‘Torpedo attack. Explosion’: Distress call reveals panic over blast on Gulf tanker ‘hit by Iranian mine’, as second ship’s owner says crew saw a ‘flying object’ before blast on board
- Captain of a passing cargo ship voices fears of torpedo attack on MT Front Altair
- The owner of the Kokuka Courageous said ‘something came flying at the ship’
- Washington believes mines were used, alleging that Iran went to retrieve one
Audio has emerged of a distress call made at the scene of one of the Gulf of Oman explosions yesterday, as the owner of the other tanker said the crew saw a ‘flying object’ hurtling towards them.
In the short clip, the captain of a passing cargo ship voices fears of a torpedo attack as he helps to rescue the crew of the MT Front Altair after it was hit by a blast and caught fire.
The sailor, who identifies himself as the captain of the Hyundai Dubai, gives the exact location of the Altair and says that its 23 crew members have ‘safely disembarked’, in the recording published by TradeWinds.
Washington alleges that Iran was behind the two blasts and published footage yesterday claiming to show an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded mine from the Kokuka.
However, the accounts of torpedoes and flying objects which are emerging from the two shipping companies do not entirely back America’s findings up.
Yutaka Katada, the head of the firm which owns the Kokuka Courageous, said that ‘something came flying at the ship’ – casting doubt on America’s theory that it was attacked with a limpet mine.
Yutaka Katada, president of the Japanese company operating one of the oil tankers attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, shows a photo of the attacked ship today
An Iranian navy boat tries to control a fire on board the MT Front Altair yesterday, as a recording emerged of a distress call by a nearby captain today
He said the unknown object punched a hole in the Kokuka Courageous, starting a fire and forcing the crew to evacuate.
The shipping firm boss said the weapon had not been a torpedo and revealed that the U.S. Navy was now escorting the stricken vessel to the UAE.
He also said it was unlikely that the ship was targeted because of its Japanese ownership – a theory hinted at by Iran as the attacks came during talks with Japan’s PM yesterday.
The ship’s 21 crew have since returned to the vessel and its cargo of 25,000 tonnes of methanol, destined for Singapore, is said to be undamaged.
Mr Katada, the head of the Kokuka Sangyo company, said the tanker had suffered two apparent attacks.
After the first, crew members ‘made evasive manoeuvres but three hours later it was hit again,’ he said.
Describing the second blast today, he said: ‘The crew members are saying that they were hit by a flying object. They saw it with their own eyes.
‘We have received a report saying that something seems to have flew in, there was an explosion and it created a hole in the body of the ship.’
One crew member suffered minor injuries in the blasts, which have sent Middle East tensions spiralling once again.
U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) render aid to the crew of the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman
The owner of the Kokuka Courageous (file photo) said it was unlikely that the ship was targeted because of its Japanese ownership – a theory hinted at by Iran
‘Crew members went back to the ship with support of the U.S. military and recovered the backup power source,’ Mr Katada said.
‘We’ll review the overall damage but we don’t think there’s a possibility it will sink. There’s no damage to the goods and fuel.’
The United States has blamed Iran for attacking the Kokuka Courageous and another tanker, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair, on Thursday, but Tehran has denied the allegations.
The ship’s crew saw an Iranian military ship in the vicinity on Thursday night Japan time, Katada said.
Katada said he did not believe Kokuka Courageous was targeted because it was owned by a Japanese firm. The tanker is registered in Panama and was flying a Panamanian flag, he said.
‘Unless very carefully examined, it would be hard to tell the tanker was operated or owned by Japanese,’ he said.
A diagram showing the U.S. and Iranian forces in the region and the location of recent attacks on oil tankers and a Saudi oil pipeline, which have escalated Middle East tensions
The U.S. military on Friday released a video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz
The tanker was attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway through which about one-fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle Eastern producers including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE and Kuwait as well as Iran.
‘This strait is very crucial. Without this route we can not transport gasoline and heavy oil to Japan,’ Katada said.
‘Unless another major incident occurs, as long as we get approval from our crew, we will continue operating our tankers via this route to Saudi Arabia.’
Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Friday that the incidents will be discussed at a meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers this weekend.
Seko declined to comment on American officials blaming Iran, saying Japan is still investigating the incident, which occurred while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran trying to help ease rising tensions between the United States and Iran.
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