Oman provided first official confirmation on Wednesday that the Asphalt Princess tanker was involved in a hijacking in the Arabian Sea after Britain’s maritime trade agency earlier reported the incident was over.
Oman’s Maritime Security Centre said on Twitter that it had received information about the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess being subjected “to a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman” and that the sultanate’s navy had deployed several ships to help secure international waters.
The British navy said the hijackers who boarded a vessel off the coast of the UAE in the Gulf of Oman have left the targeted ship, without elaborating.
The notice on Wednesday came after the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations warned of a “potential hijack” under unclear circumstances underway the night before.
The group reported that the “incident (is) complete.” It did not provide further details.
The Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess was earlier reportedly seized 60 nautical miles off Fujairah on the UAE’s east coast, in an area of the sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz.
British security sources said they were “working on the assumption Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel.”
The British military’s UK Maritime Trade Operations initially warned ships on Tuesday that “an incident is currently underway” off the coast of Fujairah. Hours later, they said the incident was a “potential hijack.”
On Tuesday afternoon at least five ships in the sea between the UAE and Iran updated their automatic tracking status to “Not Under Command,” a status that usually indicates a vessel is unable to maneuver because of exceptional circumstances.
Iran’s foreign ministry said reports of security incidents involving several ships near the UAE coast were “suspicious,” and it warned of any effort to create a “false atmosphere” against Iran.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Tuesday that Iran was acting in a negative manner around the Middle East, endangering shipping, arming the Houthi militia in Yemen and contributing to Lebanon’s political deadlock.
“All around the region, Iran continues to be emboldened,” he said. “Iran is extremely active in the region with its negative activity.”
Tensions have soared in the Gulf since an attack last week by explosives-laden Iranian drones on the MT Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, in which the tanker’s Romanian captain and a British security guard were killed.
The vessel is operated by an Israeli company, and Israel, the UK and the US said there would be a “collective response” to the attack.
There have been a series of explosions and hijackings in the waters off Fujairah since 2019. The US Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.
Also in 2019, Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz as it headed to Dubai from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The raid came after authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized an Iranian supertanker carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion it was breaking EU sanctions by taking the oil to Syria. Both vessels were later released.
In July last year, an oil tanker sought by the US for circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked off the UAE coast. The vessel and its crew ended up in Iran.
Source: Arab News, AP, Reuters
The UKMTO has received a report of a vessel approached by one boat with 5 POB, on 18th of June, at position 12°38.48N 043°18.54E, to within 0.4 nm South of Port of Mokha, Yemen. The boat altered course and retreated when the MT alarm was raised by on-board AST.
The UKMTO has received a report of a vessel attacked today, 19th of May, at position 14°19.0N 042°42.0E, approximately 34 nm South West of Hodeidah, Yemen. Investigations are ongoing.
Reports indicate that a vessel has been boarded by an unknown persons approximately 278nm from South Tome in position 01°31N 01°30E. Investigations are ongoing.
The UKMTO has received reports that a MV has been attacked on the 2nd of January at 21:50 UTC in position 15°13.0N 042°12.0E, approximately 23nm West of Ras Isa Marine Terminal. Investigations are ongoing.
Up to nine crew members on a containership in the Gulf of Guinea are thought to have been kidnapped, while another is being treated for a bullet wound in the leg.
The 21-year-old CMA CGM-chartered Tonsberg was attacked by pirates some 48 nautical miles south-west of Luba, at around 4pm UK time yesterday.
The 5,551 teu vessel was headed for Cotonou, Benin, after departing from Cameroon’s Port Autonome de Kribi on Sunday, according to VesselsValue data.
Doctors on the Danish frigate Esbern Snare are treating the wounded crewman onboard the vessel.
A helicopter from the Danish Navy vessel was the first to come to the aid of the Tonsberg crew and the pilots saw a speedboat heading north towards Nigeria as it arrived.
The abducted crew are said to be Polish, Ukrainian and Filipino and details of the event remain sketchy and subject to change.
Shipowner, Athens-based Technomar and CMA CGM have said a statement would be released later today.
According to the eeSea liner database, the vessel is deployed on CMA CGM’s Asia-West Africa WAX service, jointly operated with Maersk.
Source: The Loadstar
Reports indicate that a vessel has been boarded by an unknown number of attackers 86nm SW Agbami Terminal in position 02°13N 04°50E.
An incident is currently ongoing in position 24°59’N 057°28’E (Approx 61 NM off Fujairah).
A vessel has been attacked in position 21°16’N 059°45’E (Approx 152 NM from Al Duqm Port). Investigations are ongoing.
MNG Maritime warns that shipowners may see going unprotected as a lesser risk as Covid-19 mutation spreads
|UK shipowner MNG Maritime has warned that vessel operators may be reluctant to take armed guards on board as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads on floating armouries.|
Shipping sources have told TradeWinds that outbreaks are now spreading on the vessels that house anti-piracy security personnel in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
One source said: “An outbreak like this will influence the presence of armed guards on board merchant shipping in the Indian ocean region.”
UK company MNG has two ships in the region: the MNG Pembroke in the Gulf of Oman and MNG Captain James Cook in the Red Sea.
Mark Gray, MNG’s founder and co-director, told TradeWinds there were a “good handful of cases” on both armouries.
Eight cases previously
The company had only experienced eight positive cases since the pandemic began in spring 2020. But then the Delta variant hit.
“About a week ago, we had a guy we were about to embark on a ship who tested positive,” Gray said.
The guard had been on the platform for three weeks and could only have caught it on board, he added.
The company immediately tested the people he had shared a cabin with.
“And, funny old thing, everybody in the cabin was positive,” Gray said.
Isolation taking place
MNG is a UK-government approved Covid-19 test centre and is now testing everybody before they join the vessels, using its own PCR machines.
Infected personnel have been isolated and segregated.
“It is obviously affecting our operations. We have an isolated and segregated ship that we haven’t had before,” Gray added.
He said 98% of positive cases are asymptomatic and do not show up using thermal cameras fitted on board.
“We are operating okay. By this weekend, I will be able to say with some certainty we are only putting clean people on client ships,” the former UK Marine colonel said.
MNG’s clients are security companies who then place guards on commercial vessels.
These companies have to replace personnel if MNG informs them of a positive test.
“Those companies have got enough guards at the moment to substitute,” Gray said. “If I tell them four days before, they’ve got enough time to do something about it.”
But there is a potential problem if they don’t have an immediate substitute.
“I know the other platforms have got it [Covid-19] too. Our fear is that the clients’ ships will lose confidence in their ability to take clean guards from floating armouries and adjudge it a better risk to go unprotected, which I believe is a mistake,” Gray said.
Another armoury owner, Dubai’s Sinbad Navigation, told TradeWinds that it has no cases of coronavirus on its vessels.
“We have strict Covid-19 prevention protocols on board,” the company added.
* LSS-SAPU utilises Sinbad platforms only, which are covid free and operate as usual. Covid procedures are available upon request. The safety of our personnel will always be our No1 concern.