Although the circumstances remain unclear, the British navy warned of a possible hijacking of a ship off Oman’s coast on Tuesday.
This incident occurs amid increased tensions between Iran’s and the West over Tehran’s broken nuclear agreement with world powers. Commercial shipping in the region is also being scrutinized. Two people were killed in a drone attack by the U.S. on an oil tanker off Oman’s coast. Iran denies any involvement.
British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations first warned ships Tuesday about an “incident currently underway” near Fujairah. The authorities confirmed that the incident was a potential hijacking, but did not provide further details.
The incident involved the Panama-flagged asphalt ship Asphalt Princess, according to maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global and Lloyd’s List. Emirati-free zone-based Glory International was listed as the vessel’s owner. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
According to MarineTraffic.com, satellite-tracking data showed that the vessel was heading slowly toward Iranian waters from Jask on Wednesday morning.
The U.S. military’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, and the British Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to calls for comment. The Emirati government didn’t immediately respond to the call.
According to MarineTraffic.com, six oil tankers had earlier announced that they were “not under control” via their Automatic Identification System trackers. This usually means that a vessel is no longer able to steer and has lost its power.
Ranjith Raja, an expert in oil and shipping at data firm Refintiv, said, “At the time, if the vessels are in the exact vicinity and in the exact place, then very rarely that occurs.” “Not all vessels would lose their engines, or their ability to steer simultaneously.”
Later, one of the vessels began to move.
According to FlightRadar24.com data, an Oman Royal Air Force Airbus C-295MPA maritime patrol aircraft flew for hours in circles over the water, according to FlightRadar24.com.
Responding to the incident Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, called the recent maritime attacks on the Persian Gulf “completely suspect.” He denied any involvement by Iran.
Khatibzadeh stated that Iran’s naval forces were ready to rescue and help the region.
Washington State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that it was too early to make a judgment on the unfolding events in the Gulf of Oman. Price stated that there was a disturbing pattern of Iranian belligerence, including in the maritime domain, citing the attack on the tanker carrying an Israeli billionaire. The attack killed two crewmembers in close waters.
The West blames Iran for the drone strike on the oil tanker off Oman’s coast last week. This was the first known attack to kill civilians in the decades-long shadow war against commercial vessels in the area. Iran denied any involvement, but Tehran and its allied militias used similar “suicide drones” in previous attacks.
The United States, Israel and the United Kingdom have pledged a unspecified “collective reaction” to the attack.
The Strait of Hormuz is the narrow mouth of Persian Gulf, through which half of all oil flows. Fujairah is an important port for vessels to trade in crew, take on oil cargo and pick up supplies. It’s located on the UAE’s eastern coast.
The waters around Fujairah have been the scene of a number of hijackings and explosions over the past two-years. The U.S. Navy attributed Iran to a series limpet mine attack on vessels that caused damage to tankers.
The British-flagged Stena Impero was seized by Iran in July 2019 as it headed from Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas towards Dubai. An Iranian supertanker carrying $130million in crude oil was seized by Gibraltar, an overseas British territory. This raid was prompted by suspicions that it was violating European Union sanctions and taking the oil to Syria. Both vessels were released later.
After months of tensions between Iran, the U.S. and Emirati, a tanker carrying oil was hijacked off Emirati coast last year. The crew and the vessel ended up in Iran. Tehran has not acknowledged that it happened.
In January, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard armed troops stormed a South Korean ship carrying oil tankers and forced it to turn around and travel to Iran. Although Iran claimed it had stopped the ship because of polluting, Tehran was trying to increase its influence over Seoul in advance of negotiations for billions in Iranian assets that were being held in South Korean banks.