Friday, June 14, 2019

Tanker Incidents in Strait of Hormuz Cause Price of Oil to Rise

US Says it Will Find the Culprits if These are Military Attacks
Shipping News Feature
GULF OF OMAN – With two more apparent attacks on tankers this week as they transited the Strait of Hormuz, concerns are ramping up and sabres being rattled by the opposing powers. Whilst the US is gearing itself for a conflict with Iran, that country has hotly denied responsibility, with various factions claiming the incidents, including the four vessels attacked last month, ascribe them to other bodies.

One of the vessels involved is the Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM) managed product carrier Kokuka Courageous the crew of which abandoned ship when the incident occurred. Fortunately there was no loss of cargo and the ship is now under tow, together with her crew who were assisted back on the vessel by US Naval forces from the USS Bainbridge and the crew of the tug Coastal Ace.

One crewman aboard the Kokuka Courageous was slightly injured but has returned to duty after first aid treatment. The attack, which it almost certainly was, took place about 70 nautical miles from Fujairah and about 16 nautical miles from the coast of Iran. Previous incidents have involved fast moving skiffs or RIBs in a bottleneck for vessels carrying much of the world’s oil which, at one point, is a mere 21 miles wide.

One school of thought prevalent in parts of the region is that this is a CIA ‘black’ operation, designed as an excuse for US forces to pressure Iran even further than recently reinforced sanctions already do. Meanwhile five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), are still feuding with the sixth, Qatar, with some analysts even suggesting factions in that country could be behind the incidents, unlikely as they happened south of Ras Al-Khaimah.

The US has published evidence allegedly showing that the crew of an Iranian patrol boat removed an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the Kokuka Courageous and is sending analysts to examine the stricken ships in detail insisting these investigations will reveal the source, but this statement somewhat lacks credibility in that, although it may reveal the munitions used, the owners, and who ‘pulled the triggers’ will not necessarily be readily identified.

Meanwhile the region remains in a dangerous state of flux with the conflict in Yemen, and Arab states lining up against each other there, further muddying the waters. What is certain is the price of oil is rising as a direct result of the tanker fires, with regional winners all round in that regard. One wonders what the big oil producers in the region are thinking as government talks amongst the major purchasers openly discuss the potential for reducing, or even eliminating, fossil fuels from the equation as climate change discussions, and the plastic pollution debate dominate the political agenda.

Readers who wish to stay abreast of the situation are recommended to turn to specialist publications such as Military Matters for up to date analysis of the prevailing political drift.

Photo: The grainy footage released by US military sources allegedly showing a crewman from an Iranian Naval patrol boat reaching up to the hull of the Kokuka Courageous and removing an unexploded limpet mine. The Iranians will doubtless claim removing it does not prove they placed it.