SHIPPING | Hormuz open after blast

The Strait of Hormuz remains open to shipping following an explosion onboard an MOL-owned VLCC on Wednesday.

It remains unclear what happened to the 314,000-dwt M. Star (built 2008) with the owner itself suspecting an armed attack but reports citing Oman’s Coastguard as blaming a low-level regional earthquake.

One crew member was slightly injured and one of the ship’s lifeboats was blown off in the incident this morning near the strategic waterway in Omani territorial waters. An initial assessment has also revealed that there is some damage to the Marshall Island-flagged ship’s starboard hatches.

A statement from the Bahrain-based US Navy 5th Fleet read: “The master¿reported to United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) by radio that an explosion occurred on his ship at 03:30 local Bahrain time on the starboard side of the vessel while it was transiting the Strait of Hormuz”. Earlier reports put the time of the incident closer to 00:30 local time.

“There were no injuries reported by the ship’s master,” the statement continued, although MOL has already said that one of the 31 crew members was slightly injured.

“US Navy 5th Fleet did offer to provide emergency assistance¿in coordination with the UKMTO, but the Master determined it was not needed, as they were going to arrive in port in Fujairah, UAE under their own power to make repairs,” it continued.

“The Strait of Hormuz remains open for safe navigation and shipping lanes are unaffected by this incident.

“US Navy 5th Fleet will continue to monitor the situation and the vessel’s safe transit to Fujairah, UAE.”

When TradeWinds called the tanker’s bridge on Wednesday afternoon it was told that the ship was just reaching its anchorage position. Some reports claimed it was under tow from the UAE Navy to the port of Fujairah.

There is believed to be about 270,000 tons of crude onboard the ship loaded at Das Island in the UAE and headed for Chiba, Japan. There is understood to be no pollution.

Initial reports of the incident pointed to a possible attack from unidentified suspects. However, a report from Reuters quotes an unnamed Omani Coastguard official as saying: “The boat was hit by a tremor …we have no information of an attack”.

Although it is rare that Somali pirates venture close to the region where the attack took place, there have been incidents off the Omani coast in the Arabian Sea making it possible that they were involved.

Zodiac Maritime’s 4,363-unit car carrier Asian Glory (built 1994) was seized in the Arabian Sea on 2 January and held until 11 June. Sovcomflot’s 106,500-dwt aframax Moscow University (built 1999) was also briefly hijacked in the area on 5 May before being freed by the Russian Navy the next day.

Wolbern Shipping of Germany saw its 13,300-dwt chemical tanker Marida Marguerite (built 2008) hijacked in the Arabian Sea on 8 May. It is still be held off the Puntland town of Garacad.

Source: Tradewinds.no

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