October 23, 2021

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Tanker underway again after ‘potential hijacking’ near UAE ends

Boarders have left a tanker believed to have been seized off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the Royal Navy reported on Wednesday morning.

Three maritime security forces had told Reuters on Tuesday that the Asphalt Princess tanker had been seized by suspected Iranian-backed forces, which Iran denied. Shipping authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global had both identified the hijacked vessel as Panama-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess.

The AIS tracking status of the tanker was “underway using engine” early on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a Royal Navy agency, said what it had described on Tuesday as a potential hijack incident was now “complete” and the vessel involved was safe, but gave no further details in a warning notice based on a third-party source. It did not name the vessel involved.

The incident took place in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for about one-fifth of the world’s sea-borne oil exports.

Satellite-tracking data for the Asphalt Princess had shown it slowly heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early on Wednesday, before it stopped and changed course back toward Oman.

The Independent has contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for more information.

Tensions in the region are high after an attack last week on an Israeli-managed tanker off the Omani coast killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain. Iran has denied responsibility.

Tehran’s relationship with western powers has deteriorated in the years since Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 treaty that sought to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Commercial shipping around the Persian Gulf has increasingly been caught in the crosshairs.

Additional reporting by agencies

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