DUBAI (Reuters): The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the United Arab Emirates before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.
Damage assessment on Japan’s Kokuka Courageous and preparation for ship-to-ship transfer of its methanol cargo would start after authorities in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, complete security checks, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said.
Thursday’s attacks, which also hit Norwegian tanker Front Altair, have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States and its Gulf allies after similar blasts in May struck four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE.
Foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday Britain was “almost certain” Iran was behind attacks, adding that London did not believe anyone else could have done it.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for global oil supplies.
The Front Altair is sitting off the coast of Sharjah’s Khorfakkan port while the Kokuka Courageous is anchored closer to shore off the emirate’s Kalba port, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data.
“Our crew remain on board the Kokuka Courageous.”
“They are safe and well,” Bernhard Schulte said in a statement.
The Kokuka Courageous’s 21 crew members were returned to the vessel by the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet after being rescued.
The crew of the Front Altair, who had been picked up by Iranian boats, departed Iran from Bandar Abbas airport to Dubai International Airport on Saturday, the ship’s operator Frontline said.
A specialist team will inspect the Front Altair before deciding on how to unload its naphtha cargo. Frontline said on Sunday there had been no reported marine pollution.
The ship is now being towed towards the offshore part of Fujairah emirate, the company said.