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Frontline's blast-hit oil tanker seen back in operation in fourth quarter

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Frontline's blast-hit oil tanker seen back in operation in fourth quarter
FILE PHOTO: A handout photo made available by the Norwegian shipowner Frontline of the crude oil tanker Front Altair after the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019. Frontline/NTB Scanpix/via REUTERS   -   Copyright  NTB SCANPIX(Reuters)
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OSLO (Reuters) – An oil tanker that was set ablaze by a blast near the Strait of Hormuz in June will be back in service in the fourth quarter after repairs, vessel owner Frontline said on Tuesday.

Images of the product tanker Front Altair taken on June 13 showed flames and thick black smoke billowing from a hole in the side of the vessel following the explosion, which the United States has blamed on Iran.

Iran has denied any involvement in the blasts on the Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous vessel on the same day, or the attacks on four other vessels in the Gulf region in May.

Iran later seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, and the United States and Britain have called on allies to join in an operation to guard ships passing through what is a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry.

“Front Altair is presently undergoing repairs and is expected to resume operation in the fourth quarter of 2019,” Frontline said in its second-quarter earnings report on Tuesday.

The 23 crew members, who were rescued by a nearby vessel, escaped unharmed.

“The company’s modern vessels are designed to withstand catastrophic events in order to ensure the safety of the crew and cargo,” it added.

The Front Altair had extensive insurance coverage and the impact on the company’s earnings is expected to be minor, Frontline said.

Frontline’s net earnings for April to June swung to a profit of $1.1 million from a $22.9 million loss in the same period last year, lagging the $3.1 million profit seen by analysts in a Refinitiv poll.

The Oslo-listed company, controlled by billionaire investor John Fredriksen, reiterated expectations for a continued upturn in the oil transportation market.

“Against the backdrop of an expectation for a strong market for the balance of 2019 and into 2020, we believe we are exceptionally well positioned to create significant value to our shareholders,” Frontline said.

Already one of the world’s largest oil tanker owners, the company’s fleet is set to rise to 75 vessels following the announcement last week of an acquisition of 10 Suezmax tankers from trading house Trafigura.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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