British military agency warns of 'potential hijack' in the Gulf of Oman as multiple oil tankers report they have lost control

·2 min read
Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker that was attacked is seen off Fujairah Port
Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker that was attacked is seen off Fujairah Port REUTERS/Rula Rouhana
  • A British military agency is warning that a potential hijacking is underway in the Gulf of Oman.

  • The warning comes as multiple oil tankers in the area have reported they are "not under command."

  • At least one ship was reportedly boarded by eight or nine armed individuals.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A British military agency warned Tuesday that a hijacking may be underway off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman, where multiple oil tankers have reported that they had lost control.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is part of the UK Ministry of Defense, reported earlier in the day that "an incident is currently underway" about 60 nautical miles east of Fajairah port.

An update from the agency, which serves as a British Royal Navy capability, states that the incident has been "upgraded to potential hijack." No additional details were provided.

Reuters, citing maritime security sources, reported that Iranian-backed forces are believed to have seized a tanker. Security sources told Sky News that the tanker Asphalt Princess had been unlawfully boarded by eight or nine individuals.

"It was an unauthorized boarding in the Gulf of Oman," a security source told the British outlet.

Amid reports of a possible tanker hijacking, the Associated Press, citing information from MarineTraffic.com, reported that four tankers - the Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, Jag Pooja and Abyss - broadcast over the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that their vessels were "not under command."

That broadcast status typically indicates that a vessel has lost the ability to properly maneuver at sea due to exceptional circumstances. One of the ships later started moving, according to the AP.

In a follow-on report from Reuters, which cited Refinitiv ship tracking data, the outlet said that the number of ships affected was up to five. Reuters did not identify the ships. It is unclear if the fifth ship was the Asphalt Princess or if the reports of ships "not under command" are related to the possible hijacking.

The events unfolding in the Gulf of Oman, which are still unclear at this time, come on the heels of an attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman with an apparent suicide drone. The US, UK, and Israel blamed the attack on the tanker, which killed two crew members, on Iran.

Iran has denied any involvement in the attack, even though it has previously used suicide drones to carry out attacks abroad.

Over the past few years, the waters where the current incident is happening have seen a number of mine attacks and hijackings, often amid tensions involving Iran.

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