The Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess was identified by Oman on Wednesday as a tanker engaged in a hijacking that the UK’s maritime trade agency had previously declared over, according to Reuters.
The Maritime Security Centre of Oman issued the first formal confirmation of the incident in the Arabian Sea on Tuesday, which maritime security sources told Reuters involved suspected Iranian-backed forces. Iran has denied any participation in the incident.
People who had boarded a tanker involved in a “potential hijack” had since left, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said in a warning alert based on a third-party source on Wednesday, and that the vessel, which it did not identify, was secure.
According to Refinitiv ship tracking data, the asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess’ AIS tracking status was “Underway Using Engine” early on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Oman Maritime Security Centre stated it had received information about the Asphalt Princess being involved in “a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” but provided no further specifics.
“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,” it added.
Abolfazl Shekarchi, Iran’s top military forces spokesperson, rejected reports of maritime incidents and hijackings in the Gulf region on Tuesday, calling them “a kind of psychological warfare and setting the stage for new bouts of adventurism.”
Tensions in the region have been rising since last week’s alleged drone attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman, which killed two crew and was blamed on Iran by the US, Israel, and the UK. Iran has denied any involvement in the matter. The US and the UK have stated that they will collaborate with allies in response to the attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker. Tehran has stated that it will retaliate if its security is threatened.