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Largest Warship of Iranian Navy catches fire and sank in Gulf of Oman

The largest warship in the Iranian navy caught fire and later sank on June 2, Wednesday, in the Gulf of Oman, after firefighters were unable to contain a massive fire that swept through the vessel. According to the sources, the calamity took place under unclear circumstances. The largest purpose-built warship, Kharg, is named after the island that serves as the main oil terminal for Iran. It is a lightly armed oiler and cargo ship and was considered the flagship of the Iranian navy.

The firestorm began around 11:00 am local time on Tuesday. The firefighters fought for almost 20 hours to contain it and save the vessel. But it sank around 8:30 am according to their local time on Wednesday morning near the Iranian port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometers southeast of Tehran on the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz- the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The ship was 207 meters and 679 feet long, which was used to resupply other crafts in the fleet at sea and conduct training exercises. According to the media, 400 sailors and trainee cadets were on board and fled the vessel, with 33 suffering injuries.  

Photos of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as the fire burned behind them are circulated on Iranian social Media sites. Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire in Kharg, though they said an investigation had begun. The blaze on Wednesday in the warship follows a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman. Later the US navy blamed Iran for targeting ships with limpet mines.

Iran denied blaming, targeting the vessels, although the US navy’s camera footage showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard members removing unexploded limpet mine from the vessel. Amid the heightened tensions between the US and Iran, the incident took place. The then President, Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with the world powers.

The warship Kharg was built in Britain and launched in 1977. The ship entered the Iranian navy in 1984 after lengthy negotiations that followed  Iran’s 1979 Ismalic Revolution. Israel and Iran have blamed each other for attacks on warships since late February. They are escalating a yearslong war in Mideast waters.

The sinking of the ship marked the latest naval disaster for Iran. Even in 2020, during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a seafaring vessel near the port of Jask. It killed 19 sailors and wounded 15. Iranian navy typically handles patrols in the Gulf of Oman and the wider seas. Whereas, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard operates in the deep waters of the straits of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. However, in recent months, the navy launched a slightly larger tanker called the Makran, and it’s converted into a similar function as the Kharg.

Mike Connell of the Center for Naval Analysis, an Arlington, Va. based federally funded nonprofit that works for the US government, said that the new warship probably can't fulfill the role of the Kharg. It used to handle both resupplying and refueling of ships at sea.

On the same day, the ship caught fire and sank, a firestorm also took place in an oil refinery serving the capital of Iran, and thick plumes of black smoke were present all over Tehran. The situation was not immediately clear if there were injuries, deaths, or what caused the firestorm at the Tondgooyan Petrochemical Co. Although, the temperature in the capital reached nearly 104 degrees and in the past hot weather in Iran has caused several firestorms.

Meanwhile, in April, a blackout hit Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, in what the government claimed was sabotage. Some experts have credited these incidents to Israel attempting to slow down Iranian atomic weapons development because Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence.


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