DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – An explosion hit an Israeli-owned cargo ship leaving the Middle East on Friday, an inexplicable blast that renewed concerns about the ship’s safety amid rising tensions between the United States and the United States. Iran.
The crew and ship were safe, according to UK Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion forced the ship to head to the nearest port.
The site of the blast, the Gulf of Oman, saw a series of explosions in 2019 that the US Navy blamed on Iran in the context of mounting threats between former President Donald Trump and Iranian leaders. Tehran denied the allegations, which came after Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed tough sanctions on the country.
In recent weeks, as the Joe Biden administration seeks to reengage with Iran, Tehran has stepped up its infractions. of the nuclear deal to create influence over Washington. The agreement made Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the affected vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo and unload vehicle cargo ship. Another private security officer, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as Helios Ray.
Satellite tracking data from the MarineTraffic.com website showed that the Helios Ray had almost entered the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT on Friday before it suddenly turned around and began to return towards the Strait of Hormuz. He still included Singapore as his destination on his tracker.
While the details of the blast were unclear, two US defense officials told the AP that the ship had suffered two holes on the port side and two on the starboard side, just above the waterline in the blast. . Officials said it was unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unpublished information about the incidents.
A United Nations ship database identified the ship’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based company called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping went unanswered on Friday.
Abraham Ungar, 74, known as “Rami”, is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd. and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction.
According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides maritime support and training, it owns dozens of ships that carry cars and employs thousands of engineers.
The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it was “aware of and monitoring” the situation.
While the circumstances of the blast remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was highly possible that the blast was due to “asymmetric activity by the Iranian military.”
As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek to “exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Friday’s blast was reminiscent of the summer of 2019, when the US military blamed Iran for alleged attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic shipping routes. In the previous months, the US had attributed a series of alleged attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines, designed to magnetically attach to a ship’s hull, to paralyze four tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.