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Tuesday 03 August 2010
Author: Russell Group

As the owner of the world’s biggest merchant marine fleet Mitsui OK has called in military experts to examine its oil tanker M Star insurance intelligence experts have said it remains increasingly likely that it did not come under missile attack.

The M Star suffered significant damage to its hull and lost a lifeboat following an incident in the Strait of Hormuz while carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil and the owners said it believed to had come under attack. It claims crew had reported a flash shortly before the impact with the vessel but Exclusive Analysis said the cause looked likely to have been less sinister.

The firm which provides intelligence on political risk and terrorism to many underwriters and a number of the London market joint committee said it remained likely that it was a rogue wave which impacted on the vessel.

In London underwriters say they are keen to discover the full facts behind the damage to the M Star adding that if there is a new terrorist threat to international oil shipments through the Strait it will be addressed when the extent and level is known.

A spokesman for Exclusive Analysis said: “After close inspection of the photographs of the damaged area, our preliminary assessment is wave or collision damage or an explosion some distance from the vessel.

“Wave damage appears more likely given the smooth pressure applied to the underlying frames. Collision damage is possible but normally accompanied by paint scrapes and splitting of the hull along with damage to the frames, not seen here. The loss of the lifeboat on the davit immediately above the frame damaged area is also indicative of a wave that lifted the boat away from the ship. An explosion some distance from the vessel could replicate wave pressure damage but there is no evidence of burning or blackening of the hull. The damage is clearly external and not the result of an internal event.”

He added: “If the incident had occurred anywhere near Yemen/Somalia, we would have firmer suspicions that this could have been terrorism-related. But Iran, Oman, and UAE are relatively unlikely locations for jihadists to be launching attacks from.

“Incidentally, the fact that the tanker was Japanese has no bearing at all on whether it was a jihadist attack or not, since any foreign tanker would likely be viewed as fair game by a jihadist group trying to do such an attack. The location of the incident is much more the key factor. We have not seen any claims of responsibility from jihadists for an attack, but would not expect to see one for a couple of days in any case.”