British navy group: 'Potential hijack' of ship off UAE coast
FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The British navy warned of a “potential hijack” of a ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday, though the circumstances remained unclear.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers and as commercial shipping in the region has found itself caught in the crosshairs. Most recently, the U.S., the U.K. and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman that killed two people. Iran has denied involvement.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations initially warned ships Tuesday that “an incident is currently underway" off the coast of Fujairah. Hours later, the authorities said the incident was a “potential hijack," but provided no further details.
Shipping authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global both identified the vessel involved in the incident as Panama-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess. The vessel's owner, listed as Emirati free zone-based Glory International, could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Satellite-tracking data for the vessel showed it slowly heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early Wednesday, according to MarineTraffic.com.
The U.S. military’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet and the British Defense Ministry also did not immediately return calls for comment. The Emirati government did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Earlier, six oil tankers announced around the same time via their Automatic Identification System trackers that they were “not under command,” according to MarineTraffic.com. That typically means a vessel has lost power and can no longer steer.
“At the same time, if...