Fujairah (UAE), August 4
The hijackers who seized a vessel off the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman left the targeted vessel on Wednesday, the British Navy reported, without giving further details.
The British Army’s UK Maritime Commercial Operations reported that the incident, which they had described as a ‘potential hijacking’ the previous night, was now ‘over’. He did not provide further details.
“The ship is safe,” the group said, without identifying the ship. Maritime authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global had both identified the hijacked vessel as the Panamanian-flagged tanker Asphalt Princess. The owner of the vessel, listed as Glory International, based in the Emirati free zone, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Satellite tracking data from the Asphalt Princess had shown it was gradually heading into Iranian waters off the port of Jask early Wednesday, according to MarineTraffic.com. Later, however, it stopped and changed course to Oman, just before the British Navy group made its statement.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attempted ship hijacking, which came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal. with world powers. In recent years, commercial shipping in the vital waterways of the Persian Gulf has come under increasing scrutiny.
More recently, the US, UK and Israel blamed Iran for a drone attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman that killed two people. The raid marked the first known deadly assault in the Shadow War targeting ships in Middle Eastern waters. Iran has denied any involvement.
Apparently responding to Tuesday’s seizure of the vessel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called the recent maritime attacks in the Persian Gulf “completely suspicious”. He denied that Iran played any role.
The US Army’s 5th Fleet based in the Middle East and the UK Ministry of Defense did not return calls for comment on the reported hijacking. The Emirati government did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Late Tuesday, as the incident was ongoing, six tankers off the coast of Fujairah announced at around the same time through their Automatic Identification System trackers that they were “not under command”, according to MarineTraffic.com. This usually means that a ship has lost power and can no longer steer.
The Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil passes.
Fujairah, on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, is a main port in the region where ships can take on new oil shipments, stock up or exchange crews. Over the past two years, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy has blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on ships that damaged tankers. —AP