Some unpleasant possibilities to consider in the aftermath of what appears to have been an attack on a Japanese VLCC. And, of course, if this is another Cheonan in the making, why pick a Japanese false flag scenario? With two US aircraft carriers in the vicinity, one would imagine we should have a pretty good picture of what really happened. Something tells us the official explanation of an "earthquake" as responsible for the boat damage just won't fly.
A Japanese oil tanker damaged in an explosion in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important shipping lanes, was being diverted to a port in the UAE on Wednesday.
One of the 31 crew aboard was injured but no oil leaked from the M Star very large crude carrier (VLCC), according to the Japanese transport ministry.
It said an explosion occurred onboard at around 00:30 a.m. local time (2030 GMT Tuesday), but the cause was unclear.
"A crew member saw light on the horizon just before the explosion, so (ship owner Mitsui O.S.K.) believes there is a possibility it was caused by an outside attack," Japan's ministry said in a statement.
Oman's coastguard said there was no evidence of any attack on the tanker and instead cited an earthquake.
"The boat was hit by a tremor ...we have no information of an attack," an Omani coastguard official told Reuters.
The Strait of Hormuz remained open and it was "business as usual," an official from the Omani ministry of transport said.
Al Qaeda has threatened to attack shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a route used by some 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil.
The ship was sailing under its own power toward Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to check the damage, a Mitsui O.S.K. Lines spokesman said.
The tanker bound for Chiba, near Tokyo, was carrying around 2.3 million barrels of Qatar Land and Abu Dhabi Lower Zakum crudes, industry sources said.
It carried 16 Filipino and 15 Indian crew members.
Any impact on the Asian spot crude market would be negligible and the tanker would have taken three weeks to arrive in Japan, traders said.
"This (event) won't stop the flow of crude, so there will be no impact on what is able to be bought," a Tokyo-based crude trader said.
Around 17 million barrels per day of oil flow via the Strait of Hormuz, and Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan's total imports.