Iran and Syria have denied reports that an Iranian fuel tanker was hit by a drone attack over the weekend, insisting that the outbreak of fire was caused by an accident on board.
Reports spread on Saturday, largely from Israeli media, that the Iranian vessel suffered a drone attack off the coast of Syria. Iran's state-owned Tasnim News Agency challenged that, however, stating that a "Syrian military official denied any military operations against the damaged tanker."
According to the outlet, following an "expert review" of the incident on the tanker named Wisdom, "this accident occurred due to carelessness and lack of safety measures during the welding operation while attending the SPM [single point mooring] and performing the offloading operation."
Three ship workers who were performing the welding on the ship reportedly suffered from burns as a result of the accident. One worker is reported to have later died at a hospital from his injuries.
Despite the refutation of the reports of a drone attack, the co-founder of the site TankerTrackers Samir Madani expressed his doubts about Tehran and Damascus' version of events. "Welding on a fully laden tanker while discharging oil at an SPM? I have read Syria's maritime safety protocols. You're not even allowed to strike a match."
Madani guessed that "It was most likely something that got past the Russian Navy, and it is embarrassing because they can't guarantee safety." He also stated his belief that the tanker was carrying at least 300,000 barrels of crude oil, meaning its destination was likely Syria.
The Wisdom, which is registered in Beirut and under the flag of Panama, is thought to be one of the numerous oil tankers Iran has deployed to Syria in order to help supply it during its ongoing fuel crisis and to help it circumvent international sanctions. Another common destination for Iranian tankers is Venezuela, which is also under international sanctions.