Mystery in the Hormuz | VLCC boat bomb suspected

EXPLOSIVES inspectors are nearing consensus that a VLCC was damaged last week by a small boat blowing up near the hull, a US intelligence source told Fairplay today.

The theory that an improvised explosive device aboard a small craft in the Strait of Hormuz was detonated 10-20 m from the tanker M. Star’s waterline, “is gaining traction” among the dozen or so investigators still working to solve the mystery in the UAE, the source said.

In parallel, investigators have ruled out an attack by a rocket-propelled grenade (no scorch marks, no entry) or a rogue wave.

The possibility of a collision – with either a stray container or a mine drifting since from the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 or the two Gulf Wars – is still being investigated, said the source, who is close to the investigation. The damage took place in Omani territorial waters, but also near Iran.

Divers and other investigators have found evidence “reminiscent of the damage seen in the Limburg attack”, the source said – referring to the detonation of a boat laden with explosives near the commercial ship Limburg in October 2002, and near the US destroyer Cole in October 2000.

The Mitsui OSK Lines VLCC was damaged on 27 July. Photos show the VLCC with a large, square-shaped dent in its hull just above the waterline. Its crew of 31 people reported an explosion.

One seafarer was slightly hurt. Inspections are continuing today off Fujairah.

Source: SAFETY AT SEA INTERNATIONAL

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