Reflagged Tanker Steams Away From Persian Gulf Perils

From Times Wire Services

The reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Gas Prince and its U.S. convoy today steamed safely out of the perilous Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and into safe waters, shipping sources said.

"She just got out of the strait," said a shipping executive on the coast. "Nothing happened, she's fine."

A second source said the tanker was in the Sea of Oman and would be passing Khor Fakkan, a port on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, at about 8 p.m.

With the safe navigation of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the 46,723-ton gas carrier became the first reflagged Kuwaiti tanker to complete the round-trip gulf journey under the troubled U.S. escort operation.

Bridgeton at Anchor

The Bridgeton, which went north into the gulf with the Gas Prince and was damaged by a mine, was at anchor off Kuwait, where it was loaded with 230,000 tons of crude oil. The Bridgeton might wait several more days before heading south on its return journey through the gulf, shipping sources said.

Word of the safe passage through the Persian Gulf today came shortly after an announcement from Iran that its navy had begun maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz. The military warned all ships and aircraft to stay clear of Iran's territorial waters for three days, beginning at midnight tonight.

Tehran radio, monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus, said the maneuvers--code-named "Martyrdom"--were to prepare Iranian forces against possible U.S. aggression and to honor slain pilgrims. The announcement said Iranian naval forces in the exercise would be supported by air and ground forces.

Last week, Revolutionary Guards Naval Cmdr. Alireza Alaie said thousands of Iranian speedboats were ready to confront U.S. vessels in the gulf and threatened to blockade Kuwait and destroy its ships.

The Strait of Hormuz is only 24 miles wide and separates Iran from Oman, flowing between the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Iran has Silkworm missile sites along its coast near the strait but they are not believed to be operational.

Another convoy including U.S. warships is scheduled to sail north through the strait and into the gulf on Thursday.

Officials have said three more Kuwaiti ships will be reflagged under U.S. colors within 10 days. (Story, Page 11.)

Surprise Departure

The Gas Prince, carrying volatile butane and propane to Japan, made a surprise departure Saturday from Kuwait. It was accompanied on its voyage by the missile destroyer Kidd and missile frigate Crommelin. The guided missile cruiser Fox sailed nearby on Sunday.

U.S. Rear Adm. Harold J. Bernsen said Sunday that there had been "no alarms" and "no unusual incidents" connected with the Gas Prince convoy.

In London today, crude oil prices jumped more than $1 a barrel as the oil world was thrown into turmoil over fears of Iranian revenge tactics.

North Sea Brent crude rose to $20.85 a barrel by early afternoon, the highest in more than 18 months. One oil watcher said, "It only needs one more incident to happen in the gulf and oil prices will really move ahead."

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