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Top three theories on what damaged Japanese oil tanker near Iran

Numerous theories have surfaced for what damaged the Japanese oil tanker sailing between Oman and Iran on Thursday. Investigators say it may have been a sea mine, a pirate attack, or a collision with a submarine.

The M Star Japanese oil tanker is seen at sea near Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates July 29.

Mosab Omar/Reuters

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Whatever it was that shook a 260,000-ton Japanese supertanker as it sailed through calm waters between Oman and Iran just after midnight Wednesday, it was not a freak wave.

But beyond that, officials investigating a huge dent in the side of the M. Star are still some way off establishing exactly what happened.

Several theories are doing the rounds: The 333-meter-long ship collided with a submarine or a degraded sea mine left over from the Iran-Iraq war; there was an internal explosion; or, most unsettling of all, it was the target of an attack by pirates or terrorists in a strategically vital stretch of water in a sensitive region.

But Mitsui OSK Lines, operator of the world’s second-biggest fleet of oil tankers, was standing by its initial suspicion that the M Star had been “attacked by external sources” as it left the Gulf and entered the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes. Japan depends on the Middle East for 90 percent of its oil.

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