The past week has seen a dramatic escalation of tensions in strategic waters near Iran, starting with the 29 July attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, and followed by reports Tuesday of a hijacking incident, and news that at least four commercial vessels had ‘temporarily lost steering ability’ in the same region.
The United States Navy deployed a warship from its massive naval base in Bahrain to ‘monitor the situation’ surrounding the suspected hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Oman, a US official told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
The reported deployment followed reports by the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) monitoring agency on Tuesday that a “potential hijack” had taken place about 60 miles (96.5 km) east of the Emirati city of Fujairah.
Maritime security sources told Reuters that “Iranian-backed forces” were responsible. Sources told the UK’s The Times that they were “working on the assumption” of “Iranian military or proxies” being involved.
UK and US officials remain tight-lipped about who was responsible for the suspected incident, and have not confirmed the ship’s identity. However, shipping industry publication Lloyd’s List has indicated that the vessel involved was an asphalt tanker called the Asphalt Princess, and that the ship, owned by UAE-based company Prime Tankers LLC, had been ordered to sail to Iran. However, other sources told media that the ship’s identity was not clear…