‘Flying object’ attacked Japanese tanker in Middle East

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kokuka Sangyo Co. President Yutaka Katada speaks about his company’s attacked tanker at a press conference in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

The Yomiuri ShimbunA flying object was likely used to attack a tanker operated by Kokuka Sangyo Co., the shipping company said at a press conference at its head office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

The tanker was hit twice off Oman near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, and several crew members witnessed a flying object when the tanker was attacked the second time, according to the company. The company said it had received a report that the object caused a hole in the ship’s hull.

“[The attack] was not from a mine,” Kokuka Sangyo President Yutaka Katada said.

Of the 21 Filipinos aboard, one crew member was slightly injured, but is reportedly recovering after receiving treatment.

The tanker, escorted by a U.S. military ship, is currently under tow toward the United Arab Emirates. The 21 crew members are reportedly back aboard the tanker.

The president said he hopes to continue operating the ship after transferring its cargo to another ship, unless the route is closed.

‘Japan as target unlikely’

“The crew members claimed they were hit by a flying object,” Katada, 71, said, emphasizing how the tanker was attacked as he showed a picture of the vessel.

The U.S. military released a video showing the possibility of a mine being attached to the ship’s hull, but Katada said several crew members saw a flying object.

“I think the U.S. military’s claim is incorrect.” he said, looking confused.

The reason why the attacker targeted the company’s tanker remains a mystery.

The tanker is operated as a Panama-flagged vessel, thus he said, “Without doing thorough research, it’s difficult to find out that it is operated by a Japanese company.”

The company did not receive any notice prior to the attack, and so far there has been no claim of responsibility.

“It’s hard to believe the tanker was attacked [only] because it was operated by a Japanese company,” the president said.

“Gasoline and heavy oil cannot be transported without passing through here. It is the lifeline of Japan,” Katada said, describing the significance of the Strait of Hormuz.

The company operates three tankers, including the one attacked Thursday.

“If the route is not closed, and the consent of the crew is obtained, we would like to operate it.” he said.

However, the latest attack highlighted the danger of shipping routes near the strait. Asked about tightening the security in the area, Katada said, “It’s not something we can do alone,” indicating that it is necessary for the company to cooperate with others, such as shipowners, the government and insurance companies.


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