An Israeli vessel travelling from Saudi Arabia to Singapore was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, maritime security groups and the owner said Friday.
The MV Helios Ray vehicle carrier “suffered an explosion within the Gulf of Oman”, the Dryad Global maritime security group said.
The vessel was understood to have been travelling from Dammam, a port city in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, to Singapore when the blast occurred Thursday, northwest of Oman, it said.
“The MV HELIOS RAY is owned by HELIOS Ltd, an Israeli company registered in the Isle of Man,” it added.
The owner of the vessel, Israeli businessman Rami Ungar, confirmed the blast in statements to Israel’s Kan state television and said it caused some damage.
“The damage is two holes about a meter and a half (five feet) in diameter,” he said, without elaborating, according to Kan.
“But it is not yet clear to us whether it was caused by missile fire or mines attached to the ship,” he added.
“We have no idea if this is an incident that is part of the tensions between Iran and the United States and if it has to do with the fact that the owner of the ship is Israeli.”
Ungar said there were no casualties among the crew and no damage to the engine, Kan reported.
The Israeli state broadcaster said the vessel was transporting cars from Dammam to Singapore when the blast occurred.
Dryad said it appeared the vessel was returning to its port of origin.
But according to the Kan report, Ungar said the vessel was heading to the United Arab Emirates, where it was due to arrive on Saturday morning to undergo checks.
Israel normalised ties last year with the UAE, a move followed by fellow Gulf state Bahrain.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) also reported the blast and said the crew were safe, adding that an investigation into the incident was underway.
The Marine Traffic website said the Bahamas-flagged vessel had left Dammam on Wednesday and was due to arrive in Singapore next week.
Dryad suggested Iran could be behind the blast, noting the incident comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Islamic republic.
“Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear, it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military,” it said.
“Tensions between Israel and Iran remain fraught, especially in light of increased signs of rapprochement between Iran and the Biden administration,” Dryad added.
“Increasingly, Iran is also becoming fearful of improving relations between Israel and the Gulf states.”