The crew of the Panama-flagged tanker, Asphalt Princess, reportedly succeeded in thwarting a hijack attempt by armed Iranians in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Oman.
Five or six Iranian gunmen stormed the ship on Tuesday, but the crew quickly sabotaged the vessel’s engines to prevent it from moving any further, British officials told the British Daily, The Times. The armed Iranians fled the ship after American and Omani warships arrived at the scene, according to The Times.
The Iranian gunmen reportedly attempted to divert the ship to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations labelled the incident a “potential hijack.” The hijack boarding took place not far from the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, which is the conduit for approximately 20% of the world’s sea-borne oil exports.
This does not appear to be an isolated event. On Tuesday afternoon, some five ships in the waters between Iran and the United Arab Emirates updated their AIS tracking status to “Not Under Command.” This status means that the ship is not able to move independently due to extreme circumstances.
A maritime radio recording of a crew member that was shared with The Associated Press, offered hints of what transpired Tuesday on the Asphalt Princess vessel: “Iranian people are on board with ammunition. We are… now, drifting. We cannot tell you exact our ETA to (get to) Sohar,” the port in Oman listed on the vessel’s tracker as its destination.
It was not clear from the recording whether the crewmembers were in any danger at the time of the attempted Iranian hijacking.
The Oman Maritime Security Centre confirmed in a statement that it had received intelligence about Asphalt Princess being subjected "to a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman."
The Omani maritime authorities added, "The Royal Air Force of Oman is carrying out sorties near the area, and the Royal Navy of Oman deployed several ships to help secure international waters in the region."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied on Tuesday any Iranian involvement and described recent attacks in the Persian Gulf as “completely suspicious.”
BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner reported that the Asphalt Princess is owned by a Dubai-based company that had another of its ships hijacked two years ago by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
In its analysis, the intelligence company Dryad Global described the attempted hijacking of the ship as Tehran’s latest response to outside political and economic pressures.
“Iran has consistently shown that in conducting this kind of operation, it is calculated in doing so, both by targeting vessels directly connected with ongoing disputes and [vessels] operating within the ‘grey space’ of legitimacy,” Dryad Global stated.
Meanwhile, in a jointly issued statement, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid implicated the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps UAV commander Saeed Ara Jani for the lethal drone attack last week on the Israeli-managed ship Mercer Street that claimed the lives of the ship’s Romanian captain and a British crew member.
As in the case of the attempted hijack of the Asphalt Princess, the Iranian regime denies any responsibility for the attack on Mercer Street. However, the United States, Great Britain, Romania and Israel blame Tehran for the attack. The recent maritime attacks have increased tensions between Iran and the Western powers amid diplomatic attempts to revive the controversial Iran nuclear agreement.
The radical cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who was sworn in as Iran’s new president on Thursday, vowed to resist foreign pressures on the ayatollah regime while at the same not ruling out a diplomatic agreement with the West that could ease the economic pressures on Tehran.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.