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'Potential hijack' off UAE coast as tensions rise in Strait of Hormuz

The ship has been identified as the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess.

(File)
(File)
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A UK MARTIME security agency has reported a “potential hijack” on a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, five days after an attack on a tanker left two dead.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UK MTO) initially reported a “non-piracy” incident on the unnamed ship before upgrading its description.

Maritime security analysts at Dryad Global and Aurora Intelligence identified the endangered ship as the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess.

The MarineTraffic website, which categorises it as an asphalt and bitumen tanker, said it was travelling to Sohar, a port on Oman’s northern coast.

Earlier today, at least four in the Strait of Hormuz had broadcast warnings that they have lost control of their steering under unclear circumstances as authorities reported “an incident” was under way in the area.

It was not immediately clear what was happening before UK MTO said there had been a “potential hijack”.

The vessels — oil tankers called Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, Jag Pooja and Abyss — reported through 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.

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Attack

Today’s incident at the opening of the Strait– 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.

Two crew members of the Japanese-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker, MV Mercer Street, which is managed by a prominent Israeli businessman’s London-based company, were killed in an apparent drone attack, the United States and Israel said.

US Navy forces who came to the aid of the crew in response to an emergency distress call saw evidence of the attack, the US military said. 

Washington has called for a collective response against Tehran over last week’s attack. The Iranian authorities have denied any involvement.

© – AFP 2021 with reporting by Press Association 

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