Norway’s maritime authority (Sjøfartsdirektoratet) reported Thursday that the Norwegian-controlled tanker Front Altair was “attacked” early in the morning while sailing between the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The vessel is in the fleet of Norwegian shipping tycoon John Fredriksen’s firm Frontline Management, which denied earlier reports it had sunk.
Frontline reported that all 23 crew members on board were able to escape the fire that followed three explosions on the vessel, which is registered in the Marshall Islands. “The captain made the quick decision to evacuate to save the crew,” Robert Hvide Macleod, chief executive of Frontline Management, told state broadcaster NRK. He said all crew members, none of whom are Norwegian, were picked up by another vessel in the area, the Hyundai Dubai.
“We are very glad that all the crew escaped uninjured,” Macleod said.
He claimed that the cause of the explosions was unclear, and that Frontline was cooperating with authorities and a salvage specialist. Newspaper TradeWinds quoted unidentified sources as saying the vessel had been torpedoed, while US officials were blaming Iran for the dramatic event that was getting lots of international coverage on Thursday.
Norwegian authorities said another ship in the area, the Kokuka Courageous, was also attacked. They called on Norwegian shipowners and operators to exercise extreme caution while sailing in the Gulf area and remain at a “good distance” from Iranian territory.