‘Potential hijack’ of oil tanker underway off the UAE coast just days after Iranian kamikaze drone strike in the Gulf
- United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported a ‘non-piracy incident’
- The Royal Navy affiliated agency said incident involved tanker off coast of UAE
- No further information regarding the vessel or vessels involved was provided
- Comes just days after an oil tanker was struck by a kamikaze drone off Oman
- Britain, Israel and the US blamed Iran for the strike that left two dead
A ‘potential hijack’ was unfolding off the coast of the United Arab Emirates’ Fujairah region on Tuesday, Britain’s maritime trade agency reported.
The UKMTO warning, based on a third party source, earlier advised vessels to exercise extreme caution in the area, around 61 nautical miles east of the Emirati port city of Fujairah. It did not give details on the vessel or vessels involved.
It comes just days after a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman which Britain and the US have blamed on Tehran.
The UKMTO, a Royal Navy affiliated agency which supports commercial vessels navigating dangerous waters, provided no details regarding the vessel involved.
However, Iranian regime propaganda sites claimed the ship had struck a sea mine and named the tanker as the Singaporean-flagged Golden Brilliant.
Iranian regime propaganda sites said the ship had struck a naval mine and named the tanker as the Singaporean-flagged Golden Brilliant
A non-piracy incident is under way around 61 nautical miles east of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations
An Oman Royal Air Force Airbus C-295MPA, a maritime patrol aircraft, was flying over the area where the ships were, according to data from FlightRadar24.com
However, conflicting reports said that the vessel involved may have been an asphalt carrier called the Kamdhenu and oil tankers the Front Crown or the Maersk Messina.
All of these vessels were registered as ‘not under command,’ by MarineTraffic.com as the report came in on Tuesday evening.
That typically means a vessel has lost power and can no longer steer.
But later on, many of the ships were shown to have their engines back up and running and it remains unclear which vessel or vessels were involved in the incident.
An Oman Royal Air Force Airbus C-295MPA, a maritime patrol aircraft, was flying over the area where the ships were, according to data from FlightRadar24.com.
On Thursday night, a kamikaze drone laden with explosives crashed into the bridge of the Mercer Street tanker off the coast of Oman, killing a British Army veteran working as a security guard and a Romanian crew member.
The attack was swiftly condemned by Israel, followed by the US and Britain, who blamed Tehran for the strike. The Iranians denied any involvement.
Tensions have increased in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then U.S. President Donald Trump ditched Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
On Monday, Washington promised to lead a ‘collective response’ against Tehran, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling the MT Mercer Street incident ‘a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce’.
Damage purportedly to the Mercer Street oil tanker after the bridge of the vessel was struck by an explosive-laden kamikaze drone
One image shows a huge gaping hole in the top deck of the vessel while another shows the main mast (pictured) which appears to be blackened from a blast. Neither images could be independently verified
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MailOnline that ‘Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done’, while adding that it was ‘clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping’.
In response, Tehran said any move against the national security of Iran will ‘face a tough and firm response’, while adding that Washington and London will be ‘directly responsible for its consequences’.
Iran ‘will not hesitate to protect its security and national interests, and will immediately and decisively respond to any possible adventurism,’ foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
Deadly standoff: How tit-for-tat exchanges between Iran and Israel have threatened to send the Middle East into a major conflict
In recent months, there have been several reported attacks on Iranian ships that Tehran has linked to Israel.
In March, Iran’s foreign ministry said it was ‘considering all options’ in response to an attack on a cargo ship in the Mediterranean it blamed on Israel.
And in April, Tehran said its freighter Saviz was hit by an ‘explosion’ in the Red Sea, after media reports said Israel had struck the ship.
The New York Times reported at the time that the Saviz had been targeted in an Israeli ‘retaliatory’ attack after ‘Iran’s earlier strikes on Israeli ships’.
It came at a time of heightened tensions between the foes, with reports of a series of tit-for-tat strikes on shipping since early March.
In a report published in March that cited US and Middle East officials, the Wall Street Journal said Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria, mostly carrying Iranian oil, since late 2019.
‘The occupier regime knows that such (accusations) will not fix its problems. Whoever sows the wind reaps the whirlwind,’ Khatibzadeh said.
Iran has also accused Israel of being behind sabotage attacks against its nuclear sites, and killing a number of its scientists.
The tanker strike comes as Tehran and world powers are engaged in talks in Vienna in an effort to return Washington to a 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions, and bring Iran back in compliance with nuclear commitments it waived in retaliation for sanctions.
The accord was strained when in 2018 former president Donald Trump withdrew the US unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.