DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A series of attacks on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf has ratcheted up tensions between the U.S. and Iran — and raised fears over the safety of one of Asia’s most vital energy trade routes, where about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through its narrowest at the Strait of Hormuz.
The attacks have jolted the shipping industry, with some of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region on high alert and ordering their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed.
Washington’s accusation that Iran is behind the attacks targeting oil tankers comes as tensions flare between the two countries. The U.S. has deployed an airstrike carrier and bombers to the region, and announced this week it will send 1,000 more troops. European powers are facing a deadline from Tehran to ease the effects of punishing U.S. sanctions — described by its leaders as “economic warfare” — or Iran will break out of the limits set on its uranium enrichment by the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
The apparent targeting of tankers is alarming to ship owners operating in the Persian Gulf, said chief shipping analyst at BIMCO, Peter Sand. The company dubs itself the world’s largest shipping association.