(Bloomberg) — An unexplained blast struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Persian Gulf, at a time of rising frictions between the U.S. and Iran over the moribund nuclear deal.
The car carrier, which was flying a Bahamas flag, was traveling near the Strait of Hormuz when it was hit from outside, its owner, Rami Ungar of Ray Shipping Ltd., said Friday. Ungar said it wasn’t clear what caused the damage and that more details would only be available once the ship reached the nearest port, Dubai, on Saturday.
None of the 28 crew members was hurt, and the engine room was not damaged, company spokesman Zamir Dahbash said in a text message. The vessel, identified earlier by maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global as the MV Helios Ray, was on its way from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, to Singapore, Dahbash said. It would be repaired in Dubai, he said.
The Associated Press, citing two unidentified American defense officials, said the ship sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline. They said it wasn’t clear what caused the damage.
The area where the incident took place was the scene of multiple attacks two years ago amid escalated tensions between Iran and former U.S. President Donald Trump, who had quit the nuclear accord in 2018 and imposed crushing sanctions on Tehran. The Trump-era standoff risked military escalation and rattled global oil markets.
President Joe Biden is looking to rejoin the deal, which Iran has retreated from since the U.S. withdrawal, violating key restrictions on uranium enrichment and production capacity.
But the sides are in a standoff on who has to budge first, with Iran demanding that the U.S. first lift penalties and the U.S. insisting that Tehran first return to full compliance. Israel, which supported Trump’s withdrawal from the accord, opposes any sanctions relief and has said it will do anything necessary to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
Tehran denies its atomic program has a military component.