Maritime industry roiled by tanker attacks

London (AFP) –


The tanker attacks in the Gulf have roiled the maritime industry, with key players urging restraint over fears over the safety of a key shipping lane.

"We strongly call for nations to do what they can to de-escalate tensions and ensure the safe passage of merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,? said Angus Frew, Secretary General & CEO of BIMCO, the world?s largest international shipping association.

Two vessels were struck by explosions on Thursday after passing through the Strait some 25 nautical miles off Iran's southern coast, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane -- through which nearly one-third of the world's oil is transported.

The latest attacks meanwhile risk further raising shipping companies' insurance premiums.

Already last month, the Lloyd's of London insurance market widened its list of areas in and around the Gulf posing "enhanced risk for marine insurers" after attacks on ships off the UAE.

"These (latest) suspected attacks, coupled with the attacks in the UAE last month, concern me greatly," said Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization.

"The threat to ships and their crews, peaceably going about their business, is intolerable.

"I urge all member states to redouble their efforts to work together to find a lasting solution to ensure the safety and security of international shipping around the globe and protection of the marine environment," he said in a statement.

Markets have also been rattled, with oil prices rising further, building on Thursday's surge in the immediate wake of events in the Gulf.

"We need to remember that some 30 percent of the world's crude oil passes through the Straits," said Paolo d?Amico, chairman of Intertanko, the biggest trade group for tanker owners.

"If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk."

US President Donald Trump however on Friday dismissed previous threats by Tehran, that in case of conflict, it could block the Hormuz Strait.

"They're not going to be closing it," he said in an interview on Fox News television.

But Jakob P. Larsen, BIMCO's head of maritime security, said the current "tension in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is now as high as it gets without being an actual armed conflict".

Japan?s Mitsui OSK Lines has already responded by ordering ships it operates in the area to keep a 12 nautical-mile radius from Thursday's attacks.