LONDON, August 4. /TASS/. Individuals who seized the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess tanker in the Gulf of Oman earlier on Tuesday ordered the crew to steer the ship to the territorial waters of Iran, BBC reported citing Lloyd’s List, a company that tracks maritime traffic worldwide.
According to the report, the tanker is now headed toward the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
BBC also said the vessel belongs to Prime Tankers, a company headquartered in Dubai. In 2019, the Riah oil tanker, also owned by Prime Tankers, was reportedly seized by Iranian servicemen, the broadcaster said.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, strongly rejected claims that Iranian servicemen boarded vessels in the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman, the Tasnim news agency said.
According to Tasnim, Khatibzadeh "strongly rejected" this information and warned that the press might publish "false reports" of Iran’s involvement.
In a Twitter post, the spokesman wrote 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," he said.
Sky News reported on Tuesday citing security sources that a Panama-flagged tanker, the Asphalt Princess, has been apparently hijacked off the UAE coast. The report says nine armed people boarded and captured the vessel, en route from the UAE city of Khor Fakkan to Oman’s port city of Sohar. According to The Times, UK special services suspect Iranian military or their allies of being behind the incident.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said it was treating the incident as a "potential hijack." The organization said the incident occurred approximately 100km north of Fujairah, UAE.
Last week, UKMTO reported that the Mercer Street tanker, operated by the Israeli-owned company Zodiac Maritime, was attacked in the Arabian Sea. A British and a Romanian national were killed. Piracy was suspected at first, but later the incident was said to have no relation to piracy.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, the UK Foreign Office and the US secretary of state have accused Iran of being behind the attack. Tehran dismissed those accusations as unfounded and politically motivated.