Crews rescued after Gulf tanker explosions
Ship operators said 21 crew on board the Kokuka Courageous and 23 on the Front Altair had been evacuated.
Iran rescued the 44 after an “accident”, state media said, although the cause is unconfirmed. The US Navy said it received two distress calls.
The incident comes a month after four oil tankers were attacked off the UAE.
Oil prices rose as much as 4.5% from a near five-month low following Thursday’s incident, Bloomberg reports.
The cause remains unclear.
The Norwegian-owned Front Altair had been “attacked”, the Norwegian Maritime Authority said, leading to three explosions on board.
Wu I-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC Corp, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”, although this has not been confirmed. Other unverified reports suggested a mine attack.
The ship’s owner, Frontline, said the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was on fire but denied reports on Iran media it had sunk.
The operator of the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.
The tanker was carrying methanol and was not in danger of sinking, a spokesman said.
It is currently located about 80 miles from Fujairah in the UAE and 16 miles from Iran. The cargo remains intact.
Iranian state media said Iran had rescued the crew members and they had been taken to the port of Jask.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the incident happened as Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was meeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, adding: “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”
The vessels were carrying what Japan trade officials said was “Japan-related cargo”.
The initial reports of the blasts came through the Royal Navy-linked UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) safety group, which issued a warning, urging “extreme caution” in the area.
The US 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it had sent the USS Bainbridge to assist.
Spokesman Josh Frey said in a statement: “US naval forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 06:12 local time (03:12 GMT) and a second one at 07:00.”