The suspected hijacking of a ship in the Gulf of Oman has ended and the vessel is safe, a UK maritime security agency said on Wednesday, days after a deadly attack on a tanker in the region.
“Boarders have left the vessel. Vessel is safe. Incident complete,” United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations tweeted.
The suspected hijacking off the coast of the United Arab Emirates came just days after an attack on a tanker left two dead, which the United States and its allies blamed on Iran.
Earlier, Lloyd’s List reported that armed men had boarded a Panama-flagged tanker and ordered it to sail to Iran.
And on Tuesday, the UKTMO upgraded its report of the “non-piracy” incident on the unidentified ship 60 miles east of Fujairah heading towards the Strait of Hormuz to “potential hijack.”
Maritime security analysts at Dryad Global and Aurora Intelligence identified the endangered ship as the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess, an asphalt and bitumen tanker.
The ship was heading towards Iran under the control of armed men with British and US naval operations monitoring the situation, Lloyd’s List said.
Richard Meade, editor of the shipping industry intelligence site, told The Times that “armed forces have boarded the vessel, which last signaled its position around 5 pm London time, and are directing it towards Iran.”
The incident at the opening of the Strait of Hormuz – one of the world’s busiest waterways – comes days after an attack on an Israeli-linked tanker bound for the UAE, which the United States and its allies blamed on Iran.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tuesday that “reported ‘incidents’ in the Persian Gulf and broader region appear utterly suspicious.”
“Reaffirming our strong commitment to regional stability and maritime security, Iran stands ready to offer assistance in case of any maritime accidents,” Khatibzadeh wrote on Twitter.
The United States stopped short of assigning blame for the latest episode but State Department spokesman Ned Price said there had been “a very disturbing pattern of belligerence from Iran.”
“When it comes to this specific incident, it’s too early for us to offer a judgement just yet,” Price told reporters.