TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- An oil tanker chartered by Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC Corp was set ablaze after being "hit by a torpedo" around noon today (June 13), according to a senior company official.
Wu I-Fang, CPC’s petrochemical business division CEO, told Reuters that the 800-foot oil tanker Front Altair was laden with 75,000 tonnes of naptha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon, when it was "suspected of being hit by a torpedo," at around noon today Taiwan time. There are unverified reports that it was hit by a mine.
The ship was bound for Taiwan from Qatar when it was struck about 25 miles from Jask, Iran, reports Reuters. A fire ensued and the order was given to abandon ship.
The owner of the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, Norway's Frontline shipping said the vessel had been "attacked," which led to three explosions onboard. Wu said that the vessel has since "sunk," but its crew has been rescued.
The Front Altair's 23 crew members were picked up by a passing ship, before being transferred to an Iranian rescue vessel, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
The Taiwanese-chartered ship was the second tanker to be attacked today after a blast also rocked the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous. The 21 crew members onboard the Kokuka Courageous also abandoned ship and were rescued by a Dutch-flagged tug, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. The Kokuka is reportedly adrift at sea, is carrying methanol, and is not considered in danger of sinking, according to the ship's operator BSM Ship Management.
The USS guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge was dispatched to the scene after the U.S. Navy received distress signals from the two tankers. The U.S. 5th Fleet described the incident as a "reported attack" in the Gulf of Oman and said U.S. vessels are "rendering assistance" following the incident.
All 44 sailors from both ships involved in the incident have been rescued alive. However, it remains unclear, at the time of the report, the exact nature of the attacks and who was behind them.
Update: 06/12 10 a.m.
Frontline, the firm that operates the Front Altair, denies reports that the Front Altair has sunk. Company spokesman Pat Adamson told Reuters, "There are pictures from a salvage vessel that is circling the ship, and the vessel hasn’t sunk."