August 13, 2012 (TSR) – A VLCC on time charter to Japan’s Idemitsu was heading out of the Persian Gulf after stopping at Qatar’s Umm Said and the UAE’s Das Island oil terminals when it was involved in a collision with a US navy destroyer near the Strait of Hormuz Sunday, shipping sources told Platts on Monday.
The US-led Naval Forces Central Command Force said the USS Porter, a guided-missile destroyer, and the oil tanker Otowasan collided near the strategic strait but that there were no injuries.
The Navy spokesman Greg Raelson posted a statement on the Fifth Fleet’s website from the US Fifth Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain:
“No one was hurt Sunday morning when a US Navy guided missile destroyer and a large Japanese owned merchant vessel collided near the Strait of Hormuz.”
The statement added: “USS Porter is on a scheduled deployment to the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.”
The Panamanian-flagged bulk oil carrier M/V Otowasan, which is owned by MOL Tankship Management (Asia)Pte., was heading out of the Persian Gulf through the strait while the US vessel was entering the Gulf, a US navy spokesman said.
The grade or grades of crude oil being carried could not be ascertained. Idemitsu’s chartering manager declined to comment when contacted by Platts Monday. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE all ship crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz to the international market with 77 percent of the oil destined for the Asia-Pacific region.
“Overall damage to Porter is being evaluated, but the ship is able to operate under its own power,” the spokesman said, adding that the incident was under investigation. “The collision was not combat related.”
Raelson said in response to a question that there were no reports of an oil spill or leakage as a result of the collision.
Photographs of the USS Porter released by the US navy late Sunday show a dent and a gash in the hull above the waterline.
The incident occurred at a time of heightened tensions over the safety of oil transit through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf amid repeated threats by Iranian officials to shut the oil route to traffic in response to international sanctions targeting its oil exports.
Reuters reported the incident is “non-combat” related. The cause of the collision is being investigated.
“Both vessels are okay and the Strait of Hormuz is not closed, and business is as usual there,” an anonymous Oman coast guard official told Reuters.
Here is unconfirmed footage of the USS Porter after the collision:
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most important oil choke points and a gateway for 35% of all seaborne traded oil or roughly 20% of oil traded worldwide, according to the US Energy Information Department.
Some 17 million barrels of oil a day transit the narrow strait, which is flanked by Iran and Oman.
At its narrowest point, the strait is 35 miles wide with inbound and outbound lanes of two nautical miles each and separated by two miles. The outbound lane is entirely in Omani waters and the inbound passage almost entirely in Omani territorial waters but with a tiny sliver that goes into Iranian territory.
Under a UN maritime treaty known as UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), all vessels have the right of “innocent passage” through the strait.