British Navy Group: Hijackers left ship off UAE coast
FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates – Hijackers who seized a vessel off the coast of 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 Trade Operations reported that the incident, which it described as a ‘potential hijack’ the night before, was now ‘over’.
“The ship is safe,” the group said, without identifying the ship. Maritime Authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global both named the hijacked vessel as the Panamanian-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess. The owner of the vessel, listed as Glory International, based in the Emirati free zone, could not be reached immediately for comment.
Satellite tracking data from the Asphalt Princess had shown it gradually heading for Iranian waters off the port of Jask early Wednesday, according to MarineTraffic.com. Later, however, it stopped and changed course towards Oman, just before the British Navy group announced the departure of the intruders.
Two Royal Air Force of Oman planes, identified as an Airbus C-295MPA and a Lockheed C-130H Hercules, flew over the waters off Fujairah on Wednesday after the incident, according to data from FlightRadar24.com.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attempted hijacking, which took place amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal. with the world powers. In recent years, commercial shipping in the vital waterways of the Persian Gulf has increasingly come under the radar.
More recently, the US, UK and Israel accused Iran of 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 Shadow Warfare targeting ships in Middle Eastern waters. Iran has denied any involvement.
Apparently in response to the seizure of the vessel on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called recent maritime attacks in the Persian Gulf “completely suspect.” He denied that Iran played a role.
The Middle East-based US Army 5th Fleet and the UK Department of Defense did not respond to calls for comment on the reported hijacking. The UAE government did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Late Tuesday, with the reported hijacking underway, six tankers off the coast of Fujairah announced at around the same time via their automatic identification system trackers that they were “not under command,” according to the report. MarineTraffic.com. Usually this means that a ship has lost power and can no longer steer.
The Gulf of Oman is located 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 major port in the region where ships can take on new oil shipments, pick up supplies, or swap crews.
In the past two years, after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed crushing sanctions on the country, the waters off Fujairah have been the scene of ‘a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy has blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on ships that damaged tankers.
In the summer of 2019, Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops arrested a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz – a raid that took place after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, suspected that the ship was heading for Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Last year, an oil tanker wanted by the United States for allegedly circumventing sanctions against Iran was hijacked off the Emirati coast and then ended up in Iran, although Tehran has never recognized the incident.
And in January, armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops stormed a South Korean tanker and forced the ship to change course and proceed to Iran. While Iran has claimed to have detained the ship due to pollution concerns, it appeared to link the seizure to negotiations over billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korean banks.
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