Car carrier explosion raises Gulf of Oman security concerns

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Photos circulating on Twitter show damage apparenlty at Deck 3 level that some analysts see as consistent with a limpet mine attack.

An Israeli-owned car carrier, the MV Helios Ray, has been damaged by an explosion that occurred when the vessel was in the Gulf of Oman, approximately 44 nautical miles northwest of Muscat.

Israel’s I24 news quotes the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) as saying that “Investigations are ongoing. Vessel and crew are safe” and that the ship is proceeding to the nearest port.

Reuters quotes a U.S. defense official told Reuters \ as saying the ship was hit by a blast above the water line that ripped holes in both sides of its hull.

According to Reuters, Israeli broadcaster Kan quotes the ship’s owner as saying saying: “The damage is two holes, diameter approximately 1.5 meters, but it is not yet clear to us if this was caused by missile fire or mines that were attached to the ship” adding, “there is no damage to the engine, and no casualties among the crew.”

Photos circulating on Twitter show damage apparently at Deck 3 level that some analysts see as consistent with a limpet mine.

According to the Equasis data base, the vessel is managed by Ray-Shipping of Tel-Aviv. Its registered owner, Helios Ray Ltd., shows its address as “in care of “Ray Shipping.”

I24 news notes that the site of the blast saw a series of explosions in 2019 that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran and says the incident renews concerns about ship security amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

“Vessels transiting the area are advised to exercise caution,” UKMTO said.

Maritime security specialist Dryad Global says it is “a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military. Such activity would be commensurate with current tensions and Iranian intent to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means within its immediate area of interest.”

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