Japan inspects oil tanker after suspected Mideast attack
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 18:48
Tokyo: Japanese officials began inspecting an oil tanker after it sailed into Tokyo Bay on Tuesday month after it was damaged in a suspected militant attack in the key Strait of Hormuz.

United Arab Emirates officials have said they believe an explosives-laden boat struck the M Star in the July 28 "terrorist attack," which dented the hull of the Japanese vessel and slightly injured one crew member.

Militant jihadists have made unconfirmed claims that a suicide bomber attacked the ship, which is owned by Mitsui OSK Lines and was crewed by 16 Filipinos and 15 Indians, in the waterway leading into the oil-rich Gulf.

Soon after the incident the M Star arrived in Fujairah harbour under its own steam, with conflicting reports about the cause of the damage.

Japan has set up a special committee to investigate the suspected attack, made up of Self-Defence Force, coastguard, diplomatic, police and other officials, with the government describing the incident as "extremely grave".

"As soon as the M Star docks in Tokyo Bay, experts of the special committee will start an on-site inspection," Transport Ministry official Yasufumi Onishi, said today, adding that the inspection would continue tomorrow morning.

"There are two major reasons (for the inspection) -- to take a close look at the ship for the first time and to search for more physical evidence regarding the blast." Mitsui OSK Lines officials declined to comment, citing "security concerns."

The Transport Ministry has reported that the tanker's voyage data recorder captured radar images showing a small vessel making suspicious movements nearby around the time of the blast.

The ministry also reported that the tanker suffered sizeable damage both above and below the waterline, and that "extraneous material" had been recovered from the damaged area, the official said.

The Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and Oman, is less than 100 kilometres across at its widest point and is a vital shipping route through which an estimated 40 per cent of global oil exports pass.

More than 80 per cent of crude oil imported to resource-poor Japan passes through the Strait.


First Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 18:48

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