UpdateOff the coast of the United Arab Emirates, at least four and possibly five tankers have lost control of the helm. That happened shortly after the British Navy’s UKMTO agency reported an attack on a chemical tanker just over 70 miles off the coast at Fajairah in the Gulf of Oman. Military sources report to Reuters news agency that one ship has been boarded by Iranian forces or individuals associated with Iran.
The first report came via UKMTO, which relies on a third party. The agency reported an incident involving one ship and did not provide further information about the ‘non-piracy incident’ and the ship involved. It may be a hijacking, UKMTO said this afternoon. At the same time, Refinitiv ship tracking data, which tracks the locations and routes of ships, reported that chemical tanker Golden Brilliant reported ‘not under command’ to be. The ship, which flies the Singaporean flag, is unable to maneuver freely due to extraordinary circumstances. This often means that the ship’s power source has failed. UKMTO advises other vessels in the area to be very careful and not to approach.
The tankers Queen Ematha, Jag Pooja and Abyss would also be out of control, MarineTraffic.com reported a little later. The British daily newspaper The Times reports at the beginning of the evening based on sources that the British assume that the ship Asphalt Princess (sailing under the Panamanian flag) has been boarded, probably by Iranian troops or persons affiliated with Iran. It would be the fifth ship to run into trouble. Reuters also released the news about the hijacking.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls the reporting of the incidents “suspicious”, Reuters reports, and warns against creating an “atmosphere of hatred” against Iran.
Washington calls initial coverage of the alleged hijacking “deeply disturbing.” “We are monitoring how the situation develops and are in close contact with London and other partners around the world who are also following the case,” White House spokesman Jen Psaki said.
The alleged attacks come not long after an attack on oil tanker Mercer Street in the same region. That ship, operated by the Zodiac Group of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was hit by a drone last week off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. The ship was then towed to the coast of the United Arab Emirates under the escort of the American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Two crew members, a British and a Romanian, were killed in that attack.
Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom blame Iran for that attack. The attack further strains Israel’s already tense relationship with Iran. Iran denies any involvement.
Incidents between the major powers and Iran on the waters of the region so important for oil occur with some regularity. In the summer of 2019, tensions also ran extremely high. The US then accused Iran in July of attacking oil tankers with naval mines. The British sided with the US. Iran then boarded a British oil tanker.
A month earlier, Iran shot down a US drone. Not much later, the Americans say they did the same.
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