About five or six Iranian gunmen stormed the Asphalt Princess, a Panama-flagged tanker ship on Tuesday, but the crew onboard quickly sprung to action and impaired the ship’s engines so that it could not move any further.
Luckily, no crew members suffered any injuries during the hijack attempt, the hijackers were forced to flee the ship once US and Omani warships arrived at the scene.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported that the incident, which it had described as a “potential hijack” the night before, was now “complete.” It did not provide further details.
Satellite-tracking data for the Asphalt Princess had showed it gradually heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early Wednesday, according to MarineTraffic.com. Later, however, it stopped and changed course back toward Oman, just before the British navy group made its statement.
It seems something’s happened overnight with the Asphalt Princess. Having initially drifted towards Iran it picked up speed and is headed slowly back towards the Oman coast. Updates to follow. @LloydsList https://t.co/b9OvmgBukc pic.twitter.com/eev4PGlsou
— Richard Meade (@Lloydslisted) August 4, 2021
The news about the Asphalt Princess being hijacked was highlighted after a maritime radio recording, obtained by commodities pricing firm Argus Media and shared with The Associated Press came out. In the audio, a crew member can be heard telling the UAE coast guard that five or six armed Iranians had boarded the tanker.
“Iranian people are onboard with ammunition,” the crew member says. “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 whether the crew members, identified as Indian and Indonesian, were in danger at the time.
When the Emirati coast guard asks the crew member what the Iranian gunmen were doing onboard, he says he “cannot understand the [Iranians],” his voice muffled, before trying to hand over the radio to someone else. The call then cuts off.
No one took responsibility for the brief seizure. Apparently responding to the incident, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Tuesday denied that Iran played any role. He described the recent maritime attacks in the Persian Gulf as “completely suspicious.”
For the past two years, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.