Israel Estimates Ship Explosion in Gulf of Oman Was Iranian Attack

Vessel and crew of Israeli-owned ship, the MV HELIOS RAY, are safe, officials say, as reason behind the explosion remains unclear

MV HELIOS RAY track as it left Gulf of Oman and then backtracked to UAE after explosion near Iran
MV HELIOS RAY track as it left Gulf of Oman and then backtracked to UAE after explosion near IranCredit: Marinetraffic.com

A ship owned by an Israeli firm, the MV HELIOS RAY, was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and a maritime security firm said on Friday. The current assessment in Israel is that the explosion was a targeted attempt against an Israeli-owned ship by Iran.

However, the cause of the explosion remains unclear.

"Investigations are ongoing. Vessel and crew are safe," the UKMTO's advisory notice said, advising vessels in the area to exercise caution.

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The incident occurred at 2040 GMT, it said, but gave no details about a possible cause.

Maritime security firm Dryad Global said the MV HELIOS RAY was a vehicle carrier owned by Helios Ray Ltd, an Israeli firm registered in the Isle of Man. The ship was en route to Singapore from Dammam in Saudi Arabia.

A spokesman for Israel's Transportation Ministry said it had no information about an Israeli vessel having been struck in the Gulf.

A company with the name Helios Ray Ltd is incorporated in the Isle of Man. The ship was managed by Stamco Ship Management, Refinitiv ship tracking data showed. Stamco Ship Management declined to comment when contacted by phone by Reuters.

"Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military," Dryad said in a report on the incident.

Refinitiv data shows the ship has set Dubai as its current destination.

The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said it was aware of the incident and monitoring the situation.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Washington has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, including on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019. Iran distanced itself from those attacks.

In early January, Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew amid tensions between Tehran and U.S. ally Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions.

In 2018, 21 million barrels per day of oil flowed through the Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, equivalent to about 21% of global petroleum liquids demand at the time, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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