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Iran under accusations of Gulf of Oman tankers' attack
Published in Daily News Egypt on 27 - 06 - 2019

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said on Friday that its chemical tanker Kokuka Courageous, which was attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, is being towed toward Khor Fakkan, in the UAE, with its crew back onboard.

In a statement, the BSM said that the Kokuka Courageous "was now undertow and headed toward Khor Fakkan having sustained damage to the vessel's starboard side." The vessel was stable and there was no loss of cargo or danger of sinking.

"With the assistance of the United States navy, our crew have now returned to the Kokuka Courageous and have restored emergency power onboard," the BSM added in the statement.

They also said that "one crew man from the Kokuka Courageous was slightly injured in the incident and has received first aid treatment. He is now back onboard the Kokuka Courageous."

Speaking at press conference in Tokyo, Yutaka Katada, president of the Kokuka Sangyo shipping company said that, the 2010 crew built 27,000 dwt chemical tankers. He told the company that something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole.

Some crew members witnessed the second shot, he shared.

Katada explained there was no possibility that the ship, carrying 25,000 tonnes of methanol, was hit by a torpedo.

Iran fingerprints

On Thursday morning, two vessels of BSM (Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair) were attacked in the Gulf of Oman raising the spectre of disruption to trade in the Straits of Hormuz, one of the world's key waterways. The attack has been widely condemned.

The attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was in a meeting with Iran's leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, for "extensive and friendly talks".

The US warship, USS Bainbridge, and the merchant vessel, Coastal Ace, rescued the 21 crew members on the Kokuka Courageous following the attack.

Meanwhile, the US navy has published a video showing an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous following the attack.

"At 4:10 pm local time, an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous," the US navy said in a statement.

Despite the fact that the exact cause of the attacks remain unknown, US President Donald Trump accused Iran of attacking the two tankers, telling FOX news TV station that "Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat."

The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that "Iran's fingerprints were clear on the attacks," Arabiya TV reported on Saturday.

Moreover, the UK also blamed Iran for the attack saying that it is impossible for any other country or organisation to take such action.

In a statement, the British Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, said that the attack violates international laws and he called on Iran to stop all activities that may disturb the Middle East.

Denial, calls for investigation

Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the video does not prove anything and that it is being used as a scapegoat. Iran accused the US and its Gulf allies, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, of warmongering.

The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted that the "unilateral US actions and its economic terrorism on Iran—are solely responsible for insecurity & renewed tension in our region."

On Friday, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for an independent investigation on the attack. He added that "at the present moment, we don't see a mechanism of dialogue possible to be in place."

"It's very important to know the truth and it's very important that responsibilities are clarified. Obviously, that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts," Guterres told reporters.

Energy shock

Despite the 2% hike in the price of barrel of Brent crude on Thursday following the attack, on weekly terms oil futures suffered a loss. So far oil prices have only reacted minimally, rising little more than $1 a barrel.

At the end of Friday trading, Brent crude added 70 cents, or 1.1%, to $62.01 a barrel, bringing Brent price loss to 2% for the week.

Prior to the Gulf of Oman attack, oil prices had already dropped 20% over a six-week period, slumping below $60 per barrel mark, despite peaking at $75 a month earlier.

According to the International Energy Agency report issued on Friday, two main factors are behind the price decline, first of which is the US-China trade war, which reduces the global oil demand growth forecast.

The report explains that geopolitical risks can support oil prices and could lead to sharp spikes.

The second reason behind the lower prices is the increase in supply on the back of high US shale oil production which means that there is little problem in meeting demand.

As an oil exporter, Egypt is highly vulnerable to crude oil price fluctuations, as each $1 increase in the Brent crude's price would cost the state EGP 4bn, according to the country's finance ministry.

Egypt's new draft budget sets the price of Brent crude at $68 per barrel, up from $67 per barrel in the current fiscal year. In the 2017/18 budget, the price of an oil barrel globally was set at $55.

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