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Warplanes Attack Supertanker Off Dubai

August 18, 1986

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Warplanes believed to be from Iran set a supertanker ablaze Monday off Dubai, and an explosion could endanger the Fateh oil field, marine salvage executives reported.

″The tanker was half loaded at the time of the attack, and this increases the likelihood of explosion,″ said an executive based in Dubai. ″The blazing ship now stands atop Dubai’s largest oil field, which comprises 105 wells.″

The executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 230,637-ton Akarita was was berthed about 3 1/2 miles from the Fateh loading terminal when the raiders struck.

Fateh is the largest terminal in the United Arab Emirates, the federation of seven states led by Abu Dhabi.

According to salvage executives in the area, the Akarita was hit at 11:25 a.m. about 50 miles northeast of Dubai and 30 miles from Iran’s Sirri Island oil terminal in the southern Persian Gulf. The tanker is owned by Dominus Shipping Corp. of Monrovia, Liberia, and operated by a Norwegian company.

Iraqi warplanes raided Sirri Island last Tuesday for the first time since the Iran-Iraq war began in September 1980, but shipping sources said the Akarita’s location indicated its attackers were from Iran.

Earlier in the day, Iraq said its jets struck a ″large maritime target″ near Iran, apparently referring to an oil tanker in the gulf’s northeastern sector.

Salvage and shipping offices along the gulf said they had no confirmation of a ship raid in that area. It is near the huge Kharg Island terminal, which handles most of the oil exports with which Iran finances its war effort.

The Akarita had taken on 80,000 tons of crude oil from Fateh and was anchored off the terminal waiting to complete the loading, Erling Boroe, a spokesman for the management company, said in Oslo. He said the cargo most likely was destined for Singapore.

Shipping sources said the 39 crewmen abandoned ship when the fire started and a tugboat picked them up.

Iraqi planes raided the Akarita in March 1985 when it was part of a fleet chartered by Iran to ferry crude oil from Kharg, which is attacked regularly, 350 miles south to the makeshift terminal at Sirri.

Sirri was out of range until last week, when the Iraqis used in-flight refueling to raid it with laser-guided missiles fired by jetfighters, according to reports from shipping sources and Arab diplomats.

The strike at the Akarita was the third in as many days off the United Arab Emirates. Shipping executives said Iranian planes hit a Japanese tanker and a Panamanian-registered vessel over the weekend.

Iraq attacks tankers and terminal facilities in the northeastern Persian Gulf in an attempt to cut off Iran’s oil revenue. The Iranians retaliate with raids on commercial shipping in the gulf’s neutral southern waters.

Attacks on about 150 ships have been confirmed since the air strikes began 2 1/2 years ago.

Update hourly