Dubai: The British navy warned Tuesday of a "potential hijack'' of a ship in an area in the Arabian Sea, without elaborating.
Shipping authority Lloyd's List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global both identified the vessel involved as Panama-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over its tattered nuclear deal and as commercial shipping in the region has found itself in the crosshairs over it. 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 US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from it unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.
Most recently, the US, the UK and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman that killed two people. The MT Mercer Street, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was attacked on Thursday off Oman. A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in what the US, Britain and the vessel’s operator Zodiac Maritime said appeared to be a drone strike.
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 they are in the same vicinity and in the same place, then very rarely that happens,'' said Ranjith Raja, an oil and shipping expert with data firm Refintiv. "Not all the vessels would lose their engines or their capability to steer at the same time."
One of the vessels later began moving.
- Inputs from AFP, Reuters