Thursday

17th Oct 2019

Europe's oil supplies 'at risk' after tanker attacks

  • Price of oil jumped 4.4 percent when news of Thursday's attack broke (Photo: ezioman)

Oil supplies to Europe and further afield are at risk of serious disruption, the world's oil tanker association has warned, following more attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf.

"We need to remember that some 30 percent of the world's crude oil passes through the straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk," Paolo d'Amico, the head of Intertanko, the global association of privately-owned oil tank vessels, said on Thursday (13 June).

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He spoke after two ships - the Front Altair, carrying naphtha from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Japan and the Kokuka Courageous, carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore - were damaged by explosions earlier the same day.

The attack saw world oil prices jump 4.4 percent the same day, before dropping slightly.

The incident was the second attack on shipping in the region in four weeks, recalling the so-called Tanker War of the 1980s, when hundreds of vessels were damaged during the Iran-Iraq conflict.

The new attacks come amid years of proxy warfare between Iran and Gulf allies Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others.

They also come amid escalating tension between the US and Israel and Iran over Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.

"Once again the international shipping industry finds itself caught in the middle of a geopolitical conflict over which it has no control," Intertanko said.

"This is a reckless attack on innocent seafarers who are being used as pawns," the association's Phillip Belcher added.

For their part, the US and UK immediately blamed Iran for the assault.

"This is deeply worrying and comes at a time of already huge tension. I have been in contact with [US secretary of state Mike] Pompeo and, while we will be making our own assessment soberly and carefully, our starting point is obviously to believe our US allies," British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

"We are taking this extremely seriously and my message to Iran is that if they have been involved it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region," he added.

An EU foreign service spokeswoman also said "the region does not need further elements of destabilisation and tensions and therefore ... our call continues to be for maximum restraint and to avoid any provocations".

But Iran's UN mission said it had nothing to do with the events.

"Iran categorically rejects the unfounded US claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms," it said, amid speculation by energy experts that Tehran had nothing to gain from such an assault.

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