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Iran holds state-sponsored plans responsible for VLCC attacks, writes to IMO

Singapore — Iran has held state-sponsored attacks responsible for the damage to at least three of its supertankers since April and has sought, through the International Maritime Organization, regional cooperation to address these concerns.

"This is an attack organized by one or more states, since two other Iranian flagged VLCC tankers were similarly attacked in the same area," the country's embassy in the UK said in a recent letter to the IMO with reference to an attack last month on its VLCC, the Sabiti.

A major concern is that the organized and directed pattern of these attacks within a short time and at similar locations has rendered the Red Sea region as unsafe, according to the letter seen by S&P Global Platts.

Due to seemingly adverse conditions in the region, maritime safety and security is compromised, the letter said.

Iran has conducted a comprehensive investigation to identify the states behind these attacks and will endeavor to protect commercial shipping and maritime traffic, it said, without naming any specific country.

There should also be regional cooperation to identify the cause of these attacks, it added.

The embassy pointed out that the damage inflicted on the Sabiti was the latest in a series of attacks on Iranian supertankers.

In August, another VLCC, the Helm, was attacked when it was sailing towards the Suez Canal, resulting in the flooding of the engine room and the need for it to be towed, it said. In April, the Happiness was attacked on a similar voyage, which caused its engine room to flood and resulted in the loss of control on the main propulsion and machinery systems, it added.

VLCCs typically carry up to 2 million barrels of oil or oil products.

The letter did not mention the attacks on Saudi oil installations in September and on non-Iranian tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf in May-June.

According to shipping market participants, such attacks have increased the cost of transporting cargoes to and from the region. Importers' delivered cost of oil and oil products have risen substantially as maritime insurers are charging a hefty war risk premia running into hundreds of thousands of dollars every time a ship calls and transits from the area designated as 'risky'.

Following attacks on four oil tankers near Fujairah on May 12, the Joint War Committee of insurance body Lloyd's Market Association on May 17 issued a circular adding the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters, including parts of Gulf of Oman, to the list of areas under risk of "Hull War, Piracy, Terrorism and related perils."

In the letter to IMO, Iran said the attacks on its VLCCs fall under the provisions of the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.

-- Sameer Mohindru,

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat,