The Japanese operator of a tanker attacked near the Strait of Hormuz suggested Friday the vessel was hit by an incoming projectile, not by torpedo.

Some crew members of the Kokuka Courageous, which was attacked twice in the major shipping route Thursday, have said they "witnessed a flying object" at the moment of the second attack, said Yutaka Katada, president of the Tokyo-based operator Kokuka Sangyo Co., at a press conference.

Katada said it is unlikely that the tanker was attacked "because the attacker thought it was a Japanese vessel," saying the ship was flying the national flag of Panama while sailing.

The Kokuka Courageous was carrying 25,000 tons of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore when it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, near the Fujairah port of the United Arab Emirates, according to the company.

All 21 Filipino crew members of the ship escaped in life rafts and were rescued by a U.S. Navy vessel, but they have returned to the ship and restored the reserve power system. One of the crew was slightly injured but is improving, Katada said.

The tanker, currently being towed to Khor Fakkan in the eastern part of the UAE, faces no danger of sinking or losing its freight or fuel, according to the company.

The tanker had become unable to move on its own as its engine room became inoperable due to being filled with carbon dioxide, which crew members injected to prevent a fire before retreating, Katada said, adding the crew have already started discharging CO2.

Katada said the company will "continue to operate" its vessels around the Persian Gulf "unless the sea route is blocked."

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