Tanker Hits Mine off Kuwait, Minor Damage Reported
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ A Liberian supertanker loaded with Kuwaiti oil struck a mine off Kuwait Friday but sustained only minor damage, Persian Gulf-based maritime salvage executives reported.
They said the 273,408-ton Stena Explorer struck the mine in Kuwait’s main oil shipping channel about 30 miles from the Kuwaiti mainland.
The vessel was not severely damaged and probably would return to Kuwait, under its own power, said the executives, speaking with the condition they not be identified.
It was the fourth vessel to hit a mine off Kuwait since May 16. The maritime executives have said the approaches to Kuwait’s Al-Ahmadi oil terminal had been mined by Iran. Iraq and Iran have been at war since September 1980 and Iran accuses Kuwait of aiding Iraq.
Earlier Friday, the London-based Lloyd’s Shipping Intelligence Unit reported that the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office in Washington had issued an official warning to American mariners to ″exercise extreme caution″ in Kuwait’s main oil shipping channel because of the presence of mines.
Lloyd’s noted three other tankers had been damaged by mines in the area on May 16, May 27 and June 9. The agency named the tankers as the Soviets’ Marshal Chuikov, the Panamanian Primrose and the Greek Ethnic.
The Marshal Chuikov was the first of three tankers that Kuwait has leased from the Soviet Union to help transport its oil shipments because of Iranian threats against Kuwaiti tankers.
Kuwait’s Oil Tanker Co., with the Reagan administration’s support, is also registering 11 of its tankers to fly the U.S. flag for the same reason.
Warships of the two superpowers could be expected to provide defense for tankers carrying their flags.
Iraq began the ″tanker war″ in 1984 by attacking vessels going to and from Iran’s main oil-exporting facility on Kharg Island in the northern gulf. Iran retaliated by striking at shipping in the central and southern gulf.
The Iraqi air raids against tankers has abated, however, since an Iraqi jet hit the U.S. frigate Stark with a missile on May 17, killing 37 sailors. Iraq said it was a mistake and the United States accepted Iraq’s apology.
There have been reports the U.S. Navy will send a minesweeper to the gulf before its warships start escort operations after the 11 Kuwaiti tankers are reflagged, expected next month.
Kuwait and most other Arab nations back Arab Iraq, directly or indirectly, against Persian Iran.