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Home » UPDATE: Kuwait denies ‘maximum state of alert’ report
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UPDATE: Kuwait denies ‘maximum state of alert’ report

AT SEA: A picture obtained by AFP from Iranian State TV IRIB reportedly shows fire and smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been attacked off the coast of Oman, at an undisclosed location. -AFP

KUWAIT: The Government liaison bureau on Thursday emphatically denied reports saying that the State of Kuwait has declared “maximum state of alert.” Tareq Al-Mizrem, the official spokesman of the Government and the bureau president, said in a statement that the authorities have not declared “such a maximum measure.”He was categorically denying reports saying Kuwait declared a maximum state of alert in aftermath of an incident involving two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Earlier, Al Qabas reported that Kuwait raised oil assets to high alert status on Thursday, following an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The state-run Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC) said its vessels were operating as normal and the company was ready for any emergency and has taken all necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safe operation of its fleet. Al Qabas also reported that Kuwait’s National Guard and Coast Guard had also raised their security alert status in response.

Earlier on Thursday, two oil tankers off the coast of Iran
in the Gulf of Oman were reportedly attacked and the crews of both tankers
evacuated, sending world oil prices soaring. The mystery incident, the second
involving shipping in the strategic sea lane in only a few weeks, came amid
spiraling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger
at Iran over tanker attacks in May.

Iran said its navy had rescued 44 crew members after the two
vessels caught fire in “accidents” off its coast. But the US Fifth Fleet said
its warships had received distress calls from both vessels in a “reported
attack”. The Norwegian Maritime Authority said three explosions were reported
on board the Norwegian-owned tanker Front Altair after it was “attacked” along
with the Singapore-owned cargo carrier Kokuka Courageous.

Iranian state media said the first incident occurred on
board the Front Altair at 8:50 am 25 nautical miles off Bandar-e-Jask in
southern Iran. The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker was carrying a cargo of
ethanol from Qatar to Taiwan, official news agency IRNA reported. “As the ship
caught fire, 23 of the crew jumped into the water and were saved by a passing
ship and handed over to the Iranian rescue unit,” it said.

“An hour after the first accident the second ship caught
fire at 9:50 am 28 nautical miles off the port.” The Panama-flagged Kokuka
Courageous was headed to Singapore from Saudi Arabia with a cargo of methanol,
and 21 of its crew jumped and were rescued, according to IRNA.

Security incident

Singapore-based BSM Ship Management, which owns the Kokuka
Courageous, said it had “launched a full-scale emergency response following a
security incident”. “The 21 crew of the vessel abandoned ship after the
incident on board which resulted in damage to the ship’s hull starboard side,”
it said. “One crew man from the Kokuka Courageous was slightly injured in the
incident and is receiving first aid.”

It said the vessel is about 70 nautical miles from the
United Arab Emirates and just 14 from the coast of Iran. Tehran said it has
dispatched a helicopter from the port of Bandar-e-Jask to the ships’ location
for “further investigation”. The US Fifth Fleet said: “We are aware of the
reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. “US naval forces in
the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 am. local time and a
second one at 7:00 am.”

Oil price spike

Oil prices spiked after a merchant shipping information
service run by Britain’s Royal Navy reported an “incident” in
the Gulf of Oman. “UK and its partners are currently investigating,”
United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) said on its website, without
giving further details. Global oil prices gained around four percent immediately
after the reports of the attack. Benchmark Brent oil was trading at $61.74 a
barrel, up about three percent.

The Gulf of Oman lies at the other end of the
strategic Strait of Hormuz from the Gulf, part of a vital shipping lane
through which at least 15 million barrels of crude oil and hundreds of millions
of dollars of non-oil imports pass. On May 12, four oil tankers—two Saudi, one
Norwegian and one Emirati—were damaged in still unexplained attacks in
the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iranian naval
mines were almost certainly behind those attacks but declined to provide
specific evidence that Tehran was involved. The UAE said last week that initial
findings of a five-nation investigation delivered to the United Nations pointed
to the likelihood that a state was behind the bombings, but added there was no
evidence yet that Iran was involved.

Today’s incident came after Iran-aligned Huthi rebels on
Wednesday said they had fired a missile at a Saudi airport. Saudi officials
said 26 people were wounded in the attack on Ahba airport. Iran has repeatedly
rejected accusations that it was behind the sabotage. But its arch-rival Saudi
Arabia still maintains it was the most likely culprit.

Saudi King Salman earlier this month warned a meeting of the
Organization of Islamic Cooperation that “terrorist” attacks in
the Gulf region could imperil global oil supplies, as he sought to
galvanize support among Islamic countries against arch-rival Iran. The world’s
top oil exporter has ratcheted up tensions with Iran after the sabotage
attacks, which were followed by an attack on a key Saudi oil pipeline, which
was claimed by Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was Thursday holding unprecedented talks in Tehran with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to defuse the US-Iran tensions which have triggered global concern.–Agencies

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