Just days after two crew members aboard an Israeli-linked UAE-bound tanker were killed in an attack western intelligence agencies later blamed on Iran, a London based maritime security specialist has announced in the past 24 hours that another vessel might have been hijacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Maritime Trade Operations initially went with a “non-piracy” incident having taken place aboard an at-the-time unidentified vessel prior to later deeming the incident a “potential hijack” according to sources.
Meanwhile, analysts at Dryad Global and Aurora Intelligence in London have since identified the vessel in question as the 5746 ton Asphalt Princess.
The Asphalt Princess is an asphalt and bitumen tanker currently flagged in Panama thought to have been destined for Sohar in northern Oman when it was hijacked.
Subsequent reports indicate Iran to also be behind this latest incident with the ship having been put on course for Iran according to shipping industry intelligence agency Lloyd’s List.
Media reports from the region now have Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Mr. Saeed Khatibzadeh saying on Twitter that the “reported ‘incidents’ in the Persian Gulf and broader region appear utterly suspicious” but essentially denying Tehran’s involvement, continuing “reaffirming our strong commitment to regional stability and maritime security, Iran stands ready to offer assistance in case of any maritime accidents.”
The US, through White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, called the incident “deeply concerning” but for now has held off on blaming Iran outright, although State Department spokesman Ned Price did say there had been “a very disturbing pattern of belligerence from Iran.