Amid the escalating tensions between the US and Iran, an explosion has struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship, which was sailing out of the Middle East on Friday. This sudden blast has renewed concerns regarding ship security in the Gulf of Oman. Given the location of the blast, the area has witnessed a series of blasts in 2019, that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran. This happened against the backdrop of the rising tensions between Donald Trump and Iranian leaders. Iran completely denied such accusations.
According to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, run by the British Navy, no causalities have been reported. Both the crew as well as the vessel are safe. However, the explosion forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. A United Nations database identified the vessel as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shippings Ltd.. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray.
Meanwhile, the newly-elected US President Joe Biden is expected to re-engage with Iran, since Tehran has escalated the breaches of the nuclear accord to create leverage over Washington. The deal was to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.
While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military”. As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means”, Dryad reported. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.