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Friday, July 30, 2010

Many Questions About Damaged Japanese Tanker - NYTimes.com

Many Questions About Damaged Japanese Tanker - NYTimes.com

Shipping officials said Thursday that they were examining the hull of a Japanese oil tanker that was mysteriously damaged this week as it traversed a strategically vital waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. The ship’s owner has said that it may have been attacked.

With the tanker docked in the United Arab Emirates, the owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and port officials puzzled over what had shattered windows on the vessel, knocked off a lifeboat and punched a dent into its hull. The damage was apparently inflicted early Wednesday morning in the Strait of Hormuz, a passageway for shipping much of the world’s oil from the Middle East.

Mitsui officials said that crew members on the ship, the M. Star, had seen a flash and heard an explosion. They also dismissed earlier speculation by officials in Iran and Oman that the damage had been caused by a “freak wave.”

“We have not reached a conclusion, but we still suspect the tanker was hit by a blast,” Masahiko Hibino, a safety official with the shipping line, said at a news conference in Tokyo, according to Agence France-Presse.

The shipping company told reporters it was continuing to investigate, with help from Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations and the United States Navy. This spring, the United States and other countries aided South Korea’s investigation into an explosion that sank one of its warships, with the inquiry ultimately placing blame on a North Korean torpedo.

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