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Was a Japanese tanker attacked in the Strait of Hormuz?

Via the Voice of America:

Japanese officials are trying to determine what caused an explosion on an oil tanker as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Japan's transport ministry said Wednesday that the M. Star was carrying about two million barrels of crude oil from the United Arab Emirates to the Japanese port of Chiba when it was rocked by an explosion.

The United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, said Wednesday the cause of the blast was unknown.

But the ship's owner claimed the explosion was likely the result of an attack. Crew members on the tanker said one person on board saw a flash of light on the horizon just before the explosion.

Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said the explosion blasted a lifeboat off the ship and damaged some of the starboard hatches.  It said one crew member suffered minor injuries, and that the tanker is on its way to the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates to check for damage.

Despite the blast, the company said the ship's tanks did not rupture and that no oil is leaking.

Iran has weighed in:

The Managing Director of Iranian Navigation and Ports Organization on Wednesday rules out the possibility of terrorist attack on a Japanese tanker in Persian Gulf, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

"Probably the earthquake has caused such an incident," Ataollah Sadr was quoted as saying.

Talking to Mehr about the blast in Japanese oil tanker, Sadr rejected the possibility of any terrorist attack on the tanker, saying "due to the presence of some inflammable steams and gases on the oil tankers, the possibility of blast cannot be ruled out."

"Based on the dialogues and messages heard from Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC), there has been news about the quake occurrence," Sadr said, referring to the Japanese oil tanker M. Star blasted near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, leaving one person slightly injured.

An earthquake... has caused an explosion... on an oil tanker.

Nothing to see here folks... move along.


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Comments (26)

Everyone should know that t... (Below threshold)
JAT0:

Everyone should know that the Strait of Hormuz shook like a bowl of Jell-O when the earthquake hit. But don't put it past North Korea to be there (lost) with one of their submarines.

We'll hear at least two versions of what happened as Japan does an investigation. If this was not a mechanical failure - then what caused the explosion?

Obviously someone pulled so... (Below threshold)

Obviously someone pulled someone's finger while smoking.

Industrial accident.

/yes I'm being sarcastic. Sometimes I can't help myself.

The WSJ is reporting that i... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

The WSJ is reporting that it was a rouge wave that struck the vessel. (You have to subscribe to read the entire story.)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575394601540430826.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews

Entirely plausible, of course, but there were no storms in the Strait at the time of the accident. However,d storms aren't always around when rouge waves.

The earthquake is obviously ridiculous, but inferring that Iran may be involved is a dangerous claim particularly given the lack of evidence at present.

A few things that occur to ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

A few things that occur to me viz a viz this story:

1. A 'flash of light on the horizon' just before the boom is inconsistent with an earthquake/wave/farting whale.

2. Most of the US fleet normally in the Indian Ocean has gone off to play with the Norkies.

3. The main shipping lane runs past Jazhireh-ye Larak island, which is close enough to have been the site of the explosion and caused the incident.

4. The southern Iran city of Bandar Abbas is close to the strait and has been linked with port delivery of some very interesting materials in recent years.

5. The US Navy started using X-craft for strait operations in 2003, as well as certain special operations. If, say, a SEAL team intercepted some wayward well-armed mullahs on their way to attack a tanker, the sequence of events from the civilian perspective might look a lot like this.

Um, Peter, a "rouge" wave?<... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Um, Peter, a "rouge" wave?

Was it wearing eyeliner as well?

It is possible that the ear... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

It is possible that the earthquakes shook something and cause a spark which ignited an explosive substance. It is possible that the tanker was attack as well. Dismissing a reasonable possibility while knowing very few facts, is foolish and cuts into the credibility of the person.

A statement like "there is no indication this was a terrorist attack and it could have been a mechanical failure" would be reasonable. Then later when some facts are known, they can state it wasn't an attack. However now they lost credibility to make such statement.

rogue wave ???plea... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

rogue wave ???

please ... spent over 18 months on shipd in and around the Gulf in the 80's ... the biggest rogue wave in that bathtub wouldn't upset a rowboat ...

waves don't cause explosions ... if there was an explosion then it was either an accident or an attack ...

if the lifeboat was knocked off the ship that means whatever did happen happened near the aft superstructure which would be an unlikely place for an accidental explosion ...

gee ... international pressure on Iran increases and we have a strange accident in the Strait ... one or two more "accidents" like this and we may have to do something about those rogue waves ...

Wayne,have you eve... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Wayne,

have you ever been on a ship ? at sea ...

"It is possible that the earthquakes shook something and cause a spark which ignited an explosive substance."

Of course having sparky things just laying around to be shaken with explosive substances laying about to set off is just what they do on ships full of millions of gallons of flammable materials ...

No, its not possible that the earthquake could cause an explosion if thats what this was ... human error is the go to answer in this case with an outside chance of an actual attack ...

DJ:Yes, and blush ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

DJ:

Yes, and blush as well, with a touch of lip pink gloss. Such a slutty wave!

My bad.

Jeff:

Absolutely appreciate your POV, and I agree that the whole rogue wave theory is more than a little implausible. FOX News has a little more than the WSJ article:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/07/28/japan-shipping-company-mitsui-says-explosion-occurred-oil-tanker-near-persian-429969576/?test=latestnews

Re-reading the article, the... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Re-reading the article, the key elements are the location of the ship, the flash of light, the damage done to the starboard hatches, lifeboat, and window glass. All damage appears to be have been well above the waterline and much of it is consistent with a shock wave, but lacking projectile force. The evidence is inconsistent with an earthquake, and in any case the USGS says they recorded no seismic activity in that place and time.

Also interesting is that the Japanese declined assistance after the incident. Whatever happened was serious enough to cause damage and have them call it in, but not serious enough to ask the Navy for help.

Godzilla must have done it.... (Below threshold)
914:

Godzilla must have done it. For as we all know the religion of peacenik's could not possibly be behind it.


In other hypocritical news worth less then the minute I used to mention it.

"Kerry Says He'll Pay Mass. Taxes on Yacht
The senator came under fire after it was revealed that he was saving a bundle by docking the sloop in tax-friendly R.I.


Plus: Senator Declines to Pose for 'Beautiful People' List
Latest on Oil Spill: Full Coverage | How to Help"

Beautiful People list??


He's creepy and he's spooky, he's really kinda kooky, he's ugly as a Wookie, the botox family.

It was the slutty women tha... (Below threshold)
Roy:

It was the slutty women that caused it. Iran says those earthquakes are caused by promiscuity. So, maybe it was the rouge wave afterall.

Crew members on t... (Below threshold)
Marc:
Crew members on the tanker said one person on board saw a flash of light on the horizon just before the explosion.
As one who has traversed that strait more times than I care to count to pick out a single light as a weapon flash - in a place that has thousands of them both shore-based and on dhows - is patent nonsense. No worse that smells of 40 acres of bovine excrement.

QUICK someone get out a friggin map... the ship was out-bound to Japan, meaning it was travelling NNE as it approached the straits, as it passed thru it was travelling EAST, as it exited it was traveling SSE.

The ship was damaged on the starboard (right for you landlubbers) side... Iran is to the FRIGGIN' NORTH.

This entire story is BS, yeah it obviously was damaged but ot by some Iranian weapon, or a what... an earthquake ... BUWAWAWAHAHA... dumbasses!

P.S..... I can't let it go.... (Below threshold)
Marc:

P.S..... I can't let it go... an EARTHQUAKE ????.... BUWAWAHAHAHA..

Really?

Just as likely as it being becaused by a Sushi Fart.

Let's check that map again.... (Below threshold)
Commander Obvious:

Let's check that map again.

The ship was heading NE, true. We do not know its heading at the time of the explosion, but it appears to have been just before turning to about 170 degrees SSE, in which case the damage came from the EAST. Lookee at the map, and to the East of the tip, we see ... IRAN.


http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?q=strait+of+hormuz+map&mkt=en-US&FORM=BYFD

I'm not saying Iran did it, but trying to clear the Marauding Morons of Mayhem on the basis of presumed geography is just silly in this case.

An earthquake... h... (Below threshold)
Stan:
An earthquake... has caused an explosion... on an oil tanker.

Yeah and if anyone believes that, I have some ocean front property for sale in Arizona. Oh, but the Lee Ward types will.

Just to play devils advocat... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Just to play devils advocate:
Human error is the most likely cause that doesn't involve hostile action. Sparky loose things near a fuel tank is a bad thing BUT people have been known to get sloppy. Smoking in such places is also a no-no... but it has been done.
Add in a sudden hop from an unexpected swell, it could cause trouble.
Bigger disasters have come from simple human error and inattention to safety practices...

Commander Obvious - "... (Below threshold)
Marc:

Commander Obvious - "Lookee at the map, and to the East of the tip, we see ... IRAN."

Either your sense of direction is non-existent, or you haven't clue one where the right/starboard side of a ship is.

Even at the very tip of Oman the ship would have been going on a course of 090 (due east), yeah Iran is to the East, but the ships STARTBOARD side is pointed at OMAN not Iran.

Even when the Captain hauled over the rudder to turn to the south-south east his right side is pointed directly at OMAN not Iran.

Sorry to say it but Captain Obvious is really Captain Oblivous.

No Marc, my sense of direct... (Below threshold)
Marc Is Inspid:

No Marc, my sense of direction is fine. You apparently have a tumor impairing your ability to understand English.

You are assuming the ship had turned at the strait. the account from the vessel indicates that whatever happened, did so just prior to the course change, or at a time when the vessel was still on a heading of around 40 degrees. At that time, Iran and to both port and starboard, and Oman was to stern. Remember also, at the tip of the strait the ship was well away from shore to avoid damaging the hull (If you have seen the photo or, as you claim, been aboard a tanker, you would understand the necessary leeway needed to be sure of safe passage, in all probability at least a half-mile from shore) or having trouble with the coastal vessels, and therefore Oman would not be to its starboard again until after the maneuver brought it back to a course southwards, probably 10-15 miles in distance and well beyond an hour at the speed used by tankers in the strait.

This does not mean, as I said before, that there was an attack or that if one happened it came from Iran or Iranians. But at the time of the incident, the ship was in such a place and bearing that the damage could well have come from an Iranian ship or location. It is, of course, unlikely that there was a launch from Iranian territory, due to the distance involved and - again as I said before - there is no evidence of an actual projectile. The strongest probability is either collision with a small vessel to its starboard and ahead (which would explain why the Japanese did not want the navy's help - they weren't sure what a look at their starboard amidships would show) or the incident - whatever it was - occurred in the waters ahead and to starboard, possibly just north of Oman but also quite reasonably west of Iran in the strait. It's even possible that pirates attacked the vessel with something like an RPG, but took out the lifeboat instead of hitting the ship directly, at which point they gave up and ran away. I've seen that more than once.

But your stubborn denial of reasonable possibility and the facts of sea navigation are not helping your cred here, Marc. Are you related to a Mullah, or are you just fond of Leewardian stupidity?

A very long shot possibilit... (Below threshold)
Poole:

A very long shot possibility - meteor impact or even blue ice.

I'm thinking it was a build... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

I'm thinking it was a buildup of Unicorn farts.
Dunno if they are known to hide in life boats but say one of the crew members slipped over close to light a smoke and KABOOM.

Its as plausible as any of the other arguments, either that or Bush did it...

JeffI work on a crab... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Jeff
I work on a crab boat in Alaska for a few years. Ships are generally made of metal. Any loose metal object including tools can fall and cause a spark even in calm seas. Having explosive material including cleaning solvents are often used on boats. People "usually" use them with caution but there are an amazing number of idiots out there.

My boat was station out of Seattle. We often did maintenance while in the Inlet Straits of West Canada when we took the boat back and forth. For those unfamiliar with those straits, they are very calm and are about like sailing on ice at times. Anyway the calmness often makes people cocky and they often leave tools and supplies strung out here and there instead of being properly secure. I have seen small waves from passing ferries upset those tools and supply.

So please don't tell me a shaking from an earthquake or an unexpected wave could not have done something similar. I understand if you think it is unlikely but to say it is impossible is asinine.

And Jeff, have you spent enough time at sea to run across rouge waves even in calm water or have you been that lucky? You know that it doesn't have to be a 50 ft wave to be a rogue or unexpected wave. Yes rogue are generally thought of as very large wave but sometimes it is just a freaky wave that hits from a surprising direction. For example we were pointed into the waves while picking up gear and were hit by a wave from the aft port area. The wave wasn't any bigger than the rest although they were of pretty good size but coming from that direction when no other waves were doing that made it a rogue wave and it did do damage.

One last point, Marc - my n... (Below threshold)
Commader Obvious:

One last point, Marc - my name's Commander Obvious.

Captain Oblivious got himself a gig in D.C. as POTUS.

did so just prior ... (Below threshold)
Marc:
did so just prior to the course change, or at a time when the vessel was still on a heading of around 40 degrees.
Um yeah and still at a point WEST of the tip of OMAN as the ship was outbound...there no way in hell the ship is sterring 040 at any mpoint EAST of the tip of OMAN and then you go off the rails
At that time, Iran and to both port and starboard, and Oman was to stern.
The ship was damaged starboard side aft.

Again no way in hell any damn thing missle, rocket, tossed camel, head of a beheaded adulter would have hit that spot on the ship from the geo location it was in.

In short your nuts.

Marc. Are you related to a Mullah, or are you just fond of Leewardian stupidity?
No, but you make a reasonable facimile of both those turds.

Again with the assumptions,... (Below threshold)
Commander Obvious:

Again with the assumptions, Marc? I have not seen anything that says the ship was EAST of Oman, and the information available indicates it happened at or near the tip, just PRIOR to the turn. Again, if you put down your crack pipe and look at the map, you would see that the tip is narrow enough that the turn would be hard to starboard, from about heading 040 to about 170. This is important, and I will return to it.

Once again you are confusing a tanker with a speedboat, in your presumption that it would hug the coastline. Anyone paying attention would note that with the hull configuration and size of the vessel, as well as the marshy character of the coastline, the tanker would stay well away from the coast, so that it would be at least a half mile from the coast if not much more. This is important because the vessel would travel roughly north of Oman before beginning its turn. During the approximate time of the attack, again from the narrative from the sailors, the ship was at a heading of 040, with Iran to its West, North and East and Oman to its stern and South, preparing to heel over to starboard. As tight as the strait is, the entire vessel would be well north of Oman at the time of the turn, by sheer necessity to make the maneuver. Once again, this is obvious only if you have actually been aboard such ships and understand the difference betwen shallow-water vessels and container vessels, or had anything to do with completing maritime insurance documents - Lloyds does not smile upon tanker captains who steer too close to shorelines.

Consequently, the necessary position of the ship as recounted by its captain and sailors (at or just west of the tip), the distance from shore necessary to make the turn safely, and the maneuver necessary to come about to reach the SSE-bound lane essentially expose the starboard aft portion of the vessel to Iran for the duration of the event.

In short, you and reality are still not talking to each otherh.

Maybe everyone should have ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Maybe everyone should have waited until the actual investigation was completed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/07/world/middleeast/07tanker.html?_r=1&hp




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