New details revealed about ship fired on by Iranians in Gulf

Iranian navy conducts the "Velayat-90" naval wargames in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 1, 2012.

EBRAHIM NOROOZI/AFP/Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- No one onboard a Singapore-flagged commercial tanker that was fired on by an Iranian naval patrol in the Persian Gulf was injured and the ship did not sustain serious damage, the companies responsible for it said Friday.

The MT Alpine Eternity "was attacked by a number of small craft," which first fired warning shots and issued calls ordering the ship to stop on Thursday morning, according to a statement from ship manager Transpetrol and owner South Maritime Pte Ltd.

The crew ignored the order, changed course to head for Emirati territorial waters and called for help, they said.

The tanker had been in international waters on its way from Bahrain to the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The shooting happened near Abu Musa island, one of three islands near the Strait of Hormuz that are controlled by Iran but also claimed by the Emirates.

"At the point when the order was ignored and when the vessel changed course it was directly fired upon," the companies said.

The tanker is now berthed in Dubai's Jebel Ali port, and all 23 crew members are uninjured. The companies reported the attack to authorities in Singapore and provided details of the incident to Emirati officials.

Thursday's shooting appears to stem from an unresolved financial dispute.

The Alpine Eternity was involved in an accident that damaged both the ship and an Iranian oil platform on March 22, and the Iranians have demanded payment for the damage, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss details by name.

The companies had no immediate comment on the dispute.

In Iran, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Habib Jadidi, an official from an Iranian consortium active in the oil platform, as saying the Singaporean tanker caused some $300 million damages to the oil platform during the accident. He asked the UAE and regional countries for help in helping return the tanker to Iran.

"Ignorance and lack of attention of the captain led to the accident," Jadidi was quoted as saying. He added, apparently in a reference to Transpetrol, that the company has so far not paid any compensation despite its lawyer being informed of the damages.

"We have pursued the case through the courts," he added.

Thursday's shooting was at least the second recent significant incident involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and a commercial vessel in the Gulf.

In late April a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship seized by Iran as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz was detained for more than a week and was finally released last Thursday. Iran claimed the Danish shipping company that chartered the MV Maersk Tigris owed money to an Iranian firm. Officials have not said whether any money was paid to settle the claim.

The Iranian decision to board that vessel was "a reflection of the fact that tensions are running very high, and these tensions don't really have borders," said CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate. "These are conflicts that are happening on the ground, they're happening in the shipping lanes, and there are places and points of vulnerability that could... serve as flashpoints for conflict."