Dutch ship rescues crew from burning oil tanker in Gulf of Oman

Sunset over the Gulf of Oman
Sunset over the Gulf of OmanPhoto: Francisco Anzola/Wikimedia Commons

A Dutch ship rescued the crew of one of two burning oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the Dutch shipping company Acta Marine from Den Helder confirmed to NOS after reports in the Telegraaf. There were explosions on two oil tankers in the Gulf region on Thursday. The cause of the explosions has not yet been officially confirmed, but the general belief is that they were attacks. 

Acta Marine told NOS that the Dutch ship was on its way from Singapore to Dubai when it received a mayday signal from the Kokaku Courageous, a ship with a Japanese owner that was carrying 25,000 tons of methanol. The crew had lost control of the ship. "We responded, as required by international maritime law, and took 21 people on board. They were delivered to an American frigate", Dennis Bras of Acta Marine said to the broadcaster. He is proud of the rescue operation. The guys deserve a medal."

According to Bras, the hull of the Kokaku Courageous was pierced. The crew told the Dutch ship crew that they saw a suspicious object on the ship's facade. 

The Norwegian Front Altair is the other affected tanker. The ship's crew was also taken off board. On Thursday morning Norway spoke of a targeted attack. 

The incidents further increased the tension in the region between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both countries quickly blamed each other for the attack. Last month four oil tankers were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman, two of which sailed under the Saudi flag. 

The United States is also blaming Iran. American Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo said that the random attacks by Iran is part of the country's campaign to escalate tensions in the region, according to RTL Nieuws. The crew of a passing American war ship spotted a mine on one of the two tankers, according to the broadcaster. It was the same type of mine used in an attack in the same region on May 12th. The Americans also claim to have video footage showing Iranian troops removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese tanker. An anonymous source from within the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country believes Pompeo's conclusions. 

Iran vehemently denies being behind the incidents on the oil tankers, the Iranian delegation said to the United Nations during an emergency meeting, RTL Nieuws reports. "Iran categorically rejects the unfounded US accusation of the oil tanker incidents on 13 June and condemns it in the strongest possible terms", the Iranian delegation said.

The Prime Minister of Japan is currently in Tehran to talk about the tensions that have arisen between Iran and the United States, which may suggest that the attacks on the tankers may be linked to this visit. The Japanese Ministry of Commerce said that the tankers were transporting "cargo related to Japan", according to NOS. 

In the background of these incidents is also the collapse of the atomic agreement with Iran, which the United States withdrew from last year, also imposing new economic sanctions against Iran. In April the White House extended those sanctions, increasing the tension between the US and Iran.