Two loaded tankers were set on fire after being attacked with limpet mines in international waters in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 after passing south through the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States blamed Iran for the attacks and showed pictures of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard craft going alongside one of the tankers and removing a limpet mine that had failed to explode. Iran denied it attacked the two laden tankers, which were heading from separate Gulf ports out to sea.
During the night of June 12-13, a US Navy warship was reported to have seen around 20 small Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boats heading at speed from Iran and into the Strait of Hormuz which separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman and out to sea.
The US Navy said that its forces in the region had received two separate distress calls, one at 0612 local time from the tanker Front Altair, 110,000dwt, and the second at 0700 from the product tanker Kokuka Courageous, 27,000dwt. The tankers were about 10 miles apart at the time of the distress calls.
The Front Altair, of the Norwegian company Frontline, had loaded 75,000 tonnes of naphtha at Abu Dhabi and was on her way from the United Arab Emirates port of Ruwais to Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
The Kokuka Courageous, of Bernhard Schulte Ship Management, of Singapore, was on passage from Saudi Arabia to Singapore with a cargo of methanol. The US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyer Bainbridge was around 30 miles away from the Front Altair and immediately headed for the two burning ships. The destroyer was part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group deployed to the area.
I At 0809, a US aircraft observed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Hendijan class patrol boat and a multiple Iraqi Revolutionary Guard fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft in the vicinity of the Front Altair. At 0912, a US aircraft observed the fast attack craft pull a raft from the Front Altair.
At 0925, the Iranians requested that the cargo ship Hyundai Dubai, 23,265gt, that had rescued the 23 crew from the Front Altair to turn the crew over to the Iranian craft. The Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the Front Altair’s crew to the craft.
In an update at 1850, the US Navy’s Central Command said the Bainbridge remained in close contact with the Kokuka Courageous and another of the Strike Group destroyers, the Mason, also heading for the scene.