Two tankers operated by Frontline and Bernhard Schulte have reportedly been the subject of a "torpedo" attack off Fujairah in the UAE, according to broking and ship agency sources on Thursday.
The 110,000-dwt LR2 Front Altair (built 2016) is carrying naphtha produced by Abu Dhabi National Oil Co to Taiwan, having lifted the cargo from Ruwais on 11 June.
According to Taiwan CPC, trading house Ocean Energy has chartered the vessel to transport the cargo to the Taiwanese refiner.
CPC, which owns the cargo onboard, said it remained uncertain how much damage was done to the ship and the cargo as of Thursday afternoon local time.
Sources close to the site told TradeWinds the Frontline ship has been abandoned and all crew have been safely picked up by the nearest vessel, the 30,100-dwt cargoship Hyundai Dubai (built 2011).
The master of Hyundai Dubai reported the cause of the fire as a "surface attack."
HMM, the operator of Hyundai Dubai, said in an email seen by Bloomberg that Front Altair had been hit by three explosions.
It confirmed the crew were handed over from its vessel to an Iranian rescue team.
International Tanker Management (ITM), the manager of Front Altair, said a fire broke out on the vessel on Thursday following "an explosion."
"The master took the prudent measure of abandoning the vessel and the 23 crew members, who were safe and unharmed, were picked up by the Hyundai Dubai," it added.
Front Altair was at the southern end of the Strait of Hormuz in international waters when the incident occurred, ITM said.
"The UKMTO and local MRCC have been advised and are standing by to assist. Managers are working on plans to salvage the vessel," it added.
"An investigation is underway as to the cause of the explosion which is as yet unknown."
A crewman near the scene said on Twitter that the salvage tug E-Two was standing off Front Altair.
The tanker has a large hole just above the waterline, the crewman said.
Johan Van Beek, managing director of E-Two's Dutch owner Emar Offshore Services (EOS), told TradeWinds that Front Altair remained afloat.
EOS has been contracted by a salvor and the vessel's P&I club, he added.
A Frontline spokesman also said the ship had not sunk, despite reports.
P&I insurer Gard said it was "monitoring the situation closely and our first priority is always the wellbeing of seafarers. Our claims teams are working with the war risk insurer to ensure the safety of the crews."
Gard also has the claims lead on the hull.
Frontline Management CEO Robert Hvide Macleod told TradeWinds the captain quickly made the decision to evacuate the ship.
"We are very glad to hear that the whole crew was unhurt in the incident," he said.
"All onboard have from what we know handled a demanding situation in according with the routines.”
He added: “We are now co-operating with authorities and salvage experts to handle the situation in the best possible way. We don’t know the reason for the explosion and work to clarify through thorough investigations.”
Clarksons lists Gard as the insurer. VesselsValue assesses the tanker as worth $42m.
Schulte ship damaged
Sources said another ship, the 27,000-dwt Bernhard Schulte-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous (built 2010), insured by Japan P&I, had "fallen silent" in the same area and was not able to be contacted.
The vessel was heading from Saudi Arabia to Singapore with a cargo of methanol.
Schulte said in a statement the ship had been "damaged as a result of the suspected attack”, while all 21 crew had abandoned the vessel.
“The hull has been breached above the water line on the starboard side. All crew are reported safe and only one minor injury reported.”
The vessel is about 70 nautical miles from Fujairah and about 14 nautical miles from the coast of Iran.
"The Kokuka Courageous remains in the area and is not in any danger of sinking. The cargo of methanol is intact," the statement added.
The injured crew member was receiving medical treatment on another vessel nearby.
UK Maritime Trade Operations, run by the British Navy, said on its website that the UK and its partners were investigating an "unspecified" incident involving the Frontline ship.
The group urged "extreme caution".
Vessel on fire
Reuters cited an official at the port of Fujairah as saying Front Altair was on fire in the Sea of Oman.
Chemical and oil tanker
Owner/manager: Kokuka Sangyo, Osaka, Japan
Technical manager: Bernhard Schulte Shipmagement (Singapore)
The vessel had sent a distress signal to the port.
Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the US Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said his command was "aware" of a reported incident in the area. He declined to elaborate.
"We are working on getting details," Frey told the Associated Press.
"US naval forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12am local time and a second one at 7:00am," the US 5th fleet said in a statement. "US Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance."
Iran's Al Alam television station reported that two tankers came under attack as a result of "successive explosions", without offering evidence.
The attack is believed to have taken place 25 miles off the Iranian coastline.
AIS data shows Front Altair left Ruwais in the UAE on 11 June and is currently underway in the Arabian Gulf.
Four tankers were damaged by a limpet mine attack off Fujairah last month.
The UAE concluded that this was the work of a "state agent," but stopped short of naming names. The US has pointed the finger at Iran, which denied the attack.