How 'torpedo attack' on oil tanker in the Gulf could cost you at the petrol pump

A suspected torpedo attack on two commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has stoked fears of a new conflict between Iran and the US.

The attack, which left one tanker engulfed in flames, has also prompted concerns it will drive up global oil prices, meaning motorists could bear the brunt of the latest rise in tensions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House believed Iran was responsible for the attack, labelling it a "campaign" of "escalating tension" by the Middle Eastern country and a threat to international peace and security.

The crude oil tanker Front Altair on fire in the Gulf of Oman, 13 June 2019. Source: Stringer/AAP

Washington has accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world's oil passes.

In the latest incident, the tankers were damaged near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf near the Gulf of Oman.

A third of all oil traded by sea passes through the area.

The Strait is a strategically important stretch of ocean for global oil shipments. Source: Google Maps

Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot sell its oil due to US sanctions.

No one has claimed Thursday's attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incidents as "suspicious" on Twitter and called for regional dialogue.

Concern conflict will cause spike in oil prices

Global oil prices surged following the suspected attacks, climbing as much as 4.5 per cent.

The incident has been labelled a “major escalation” in tensions and raised fears that ongoing confrontations could strangle the supply of oil and push prices up.

After briefly spiking when news broke overnight, oil prices ended up about 2 per cent higher.

However it remains unclear if the latest incident will have any material impact on petrol prices for motorists.

Prices at the pump "will not immediately skyrocket because of the attacks on two oil tankers", Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at research firm Gas Buddy in the US, tweeted.

Tensions between Iran and the US, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since Washington pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

With AAP

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