Bow and stern are two shipping terms that hint at respectfulness. There is not much of that in the Gulf in recent weeks. A tit-for-tat struggle over oil tankers in this important region for the crude trade has generated plenty of headlines. Yet markets have paid little heed — even following Iran’s boarding of a British-flagged tanker. One reason has to do with the paucity of British vessels there. Another is that the Gulf’s market share of seaborne crude has fallen in recent years.

Iran seized the Stena Impero last week, including its 23 crew members. A clearly hostile act. You would never know it. Brent oil prices are unmoved. The spot rate to charter the largest oil tankers from the Gulf to Asia has also reflected no panic as yet. Share prices of listed oil tanker companies such as Euronav, Frontline and Scorpio have hardly budged either. Although insurance rates may well be on the rise, that cost accrues to the charter holder and does not appear in tanker rental rates.

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