Iraq explosives experts working to defuse mine on oil tanker

Iraqi security forces say their explosives experts are working to neutralize a large mine discovered on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and evacuate its crew

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi explosives experts were working to defuse a large mine discovered on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and evacuate its crew, authorities said Friday.

It was the first official Iraqi confirmation that a mine was discovered on an Iraqi tanker transferring fuel in the Persian Gulf to another vessel. It did not identify either vessels or provide more details.

Iraq is marking the anniversary with a series of events this week.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an organization under Britain’s royal navy, said on its website that an “unknown object” had been attached to a ship’s hull in the vicinity of Iraq’s Khor Al-Zubair Port, without providing further information.

The Pola serves as floating fuel oil storage of Iraq’s State Organization of Marketing of Oil, said Sudharsan Sarathy, a senior oil analyst at the data-analysis firm Refinitiv. Smaller vessels carry the fuel oil to the ship, which then conducts ship-to-ship transfers in the Persian Gulf to clients.

Sarathy said the Pola was conducting a ship-to-ship transfer with the MT Nordic Freedom, a Bermuda-flagged tanker.

Friday's statement said an explosives-handling team from Iraq’s Interior Ministry was airlifted to the scene after a “foreign body” was observed attached to one of the ships in the waiting area in Iraq’s international waters, 28 nautical miles from Iraqi oil ports.

Despite high waves, the vessel receiving the fuel was evacuated while the Iraqi team was still working on neutralizing the mine and evacuating the refueling ship, it said.

In 2019, the U.S. blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all the world’s oil passes. Iran denies being involved.