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Eastern Pacific Tanker Struck by Suspected Iranian Drone off Oman

tanker struck off Oman
One of Eastern Pacific's product tankers was struck off Oman (EPS file photo)

Published Nov 16, 2022 11:54 AM by The Maritime Executive

A product tanker sailing near Oman suffered minor damage in what multiple officials are calling a drone strike by Iranian forces. Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, owned by Israeli shipping magnate Idan Ofer, issued a brief statement confirming that its vessel had been “hit by a projectile,” while saying the crew was safe and there had been no leaks. If confirmed, it would be the second drone attack by Iran on an Israeli-owned tanker with a similar incident in July 2021 that killed two crewmembers on a crude oil tanker also sailing near Oman.

The Pacific Zircon, a 49,995 dwt product tanker registered in Liberia, loaded a cargo of 42,000 tons of gas oil at the terminal in Sohar, Oman departing on November 14. Its destination was Buenos Aires, Argentina. Preliminary reports are that the vessel was hit by a projectile approximately 150 miles off the coast of Oman mid-day on November 15.

“We are in communication with the vessel and there is no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and accounted for,” Eastern Pacific said in a statement released today. “There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”

Security analysts linked Iran to the attack with Israeli sources saying it was likely a Shahed-136 drone similar to the ones Iran is sending to Russia for use in Ukraine. Iran responded in its media blaming Israel for staging the attack working with the "Hebrew-Arab axis" to raise tensions in the region ahead of the start of the World Cup matches.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the November 15 attack against a commercial tanker, the MV Pacific Zircon, that was transiting in international waters off the coast of Oman,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a written statement to the media. “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran likely conducted this attack using a UAV, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing directly and via its proxies throughout the Middle East.”

The British Royal Navy was the first to respond to the tanker. Spokespersons for the U.S. 5th Fleet, which monitors the Gulf region, and the UK Maritime Trade Operations both confirmed to news outlets including AP, Reuters, and AFP that they were aware of the incident. They said they were investigating.

Iran also denied responsibility for the July 2021 drone attack on the Mercer Street, an oil tanker controlled by Israeli Eyal Ofer’s company Zodiac Maritime. In that attack, the drone explosion penetrated the deck house killing two of the crewmembers aboard the ship. US CENTCOM later issued a detailed report directly linking an Iranian “kamikaze UAV” (unmanned aerial vehicle) to the attack. The vessel had come under attack twice with both believed to have been launched from Yemen.