Reports say Iranian-backed forces may have seized Asphalt Princess tanker; British military calls it a ‘potential hijack’
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — At least six ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates broadcast warnings Tuesday that they had lost control of their steering under unclear circumstances as British authorities reported “a potential hijack” was underway in the area.
It wasn’t immediately clear what was happening off the coast of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman.
According to the Reuters news agency, which quoted two security maritime sources, Iranian-backed forces were believed to have seized one of the tankers.
Shipping authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global both identified the vessel involved as Panama-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess. The vessel’s owner, listed as Emirati free zone-based Glory International, could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.
The six vessels 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.