(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
LONDON — Oil tankers came under attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian news media and a shipping industry official said on Thursday, a month after four tankers were damaged in the same waterway, a vital thoroughfare for much of the world’s oil.
The Iranian state news media reported that multiple tankers had been seriously damaged. A shipping industry official, who was not authorized to speak publicly to the news media, said that at least two tankers had been hit. The nature of the attack was not clear.
“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman,” the United States Fifth Fleet said in a brief statement. “U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time and a second one at 7 a.m. U.S. Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance.”
An arm of the British Navy, United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, reported that “U.K. and its partners are currently investigating” an incident in the gulf, about 40 miles east of the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, but offered no details.
Oil prices spiked early Thursday on the news.
In the region, Iran, on the northern side of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, has long been at odds with its adversaries and neighbors to the south, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They support opposing sides in the civil war in Yemen.
The attacks in May worsened those tensions, raising concerns that they might lead to a violent clash between regional powers.
One of the tankers involved in the latest attack, M. T. Front Altair, was on fire, and the crew had abandoned ship and been rescued, according to the industry official. The ship, registered in the Marshall Islands, was carrying naphtha, a petroleum product, he said.
He said that contact had been lost with another tanker, the Panamanian-flagged Kokuka Courageous. There were news reports that it, too, was on fire and had been abandoned.