Iranian-backed forces are believed to have seized four oil tankers in the Gulf off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, three maritime security sources said, after Britain’s maritime trade agency reported a “potential hijack” in the area on Tuesday.
Abolfazl Shekarchi, Iran’s senior armed forces spokesman, denounced reports of maritime incidents and hijacking in the Gulf area as “a kind of psychological warfare and setting the stage for new bouts of adventurism,” the Fars News Agency said.
Two of the maritime sources identified the seized vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for about a fifth of the world’s seaborne oil exports.
The U.S. State Department said it was concerned and looking into reports of a maritime incident in the Gulf of Oman, but that it was too early to offer a judgment. Britain’s foreign ministry was “urgently investigating” an incident on a vessel off the UAE coast, a spokesperson said.
Iran Hijacked Oil Tankers
IRAN was accused of storming a commercial tanker in the Gulf last night — as allies condemned Tehran over a high seas drone strike that killed a British contractor.
A nine men team of commandos clambered aboard the Asphalt Princess in what Royal Navy monitors slammed as a “potential hijacking”.
Shipping authority Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence said the vessel had been ordered to sail to Iran.
Six other tankers reported losing control of their steering around the same time as last night’s incident in the busy shipping lane between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
A US military ship is expected to be sent towards the area to monitor the situation.
The Asphalt Princess is owned by a UAE firm and registered in Panama. There are no Brits on board.
Sources told The Times they believe Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel about 60 miles off the coast of Fujairah.
It’s believed the asphalt and bitumen tanker was heading to the port of Sohar on Oman’s northern coast when it was attacked.
Maritime security sources identified the vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt tanker that was reportedly intercepted in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s seaborne oil exports flow.
Maritime security analysts at Dryad Global and Aurora Intelligence later named the endangered ship as the Asphalt Princess travelling to Sohar, a port on Oman’s northern coast.
In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was “urgently investigating an incident on a vessel off the UAE coast”. A spokesperson for the US state department said it was “too early to offer a judgment” on the incident.
The statement said the incident was an attempt by western countries and Israel “to prepare the public opinion of the international community for hostile action against the honourable nation of Iran”.
The latest incident followed an attack last week on an Israeli-managed tanker off the Omani coast that killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain. Iran denied responsibility.
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