Around 5-6 armed terrorists boarded Asphalt Princess, a Panama flagged oil tanker and tried to take control of the ship. They wanted to divert the tanker to Iran, but the crew onboard quickly jumped into action and sabotaged the ship’s engine so that the vessel cannot move any further.
None of the crew members suffered any injuries in the hijack attempt, and the Iranian gunmen were forced to flee the ship once US and Omani warships arrived at the scene.
When Asphalt Princess suffered what the UK maritime safety agency calls a “suspected hijack”, the Panama tanker was cruising 85 miles from the Emirati port of Fujairah on Tuesday. It was confirmed from radio recordings, and intelligence sources that there were 5-6 gunned Iranian Commandos who wanted to re-route the ship to a port in Iran.
According to an intelligence source, when the US and Omani warships turned up, the hijackers got into their boats and fled the scene.
The events that unfolded Tuesday on the Asphalt Princess came to light because of a maritime radio recording which was obtained by commodities pricing firm Argus Media and shared with The Associated Press.
It is believed that Asphalt Princess was sailing from Bandar Abbas, in Iran, to the port of Sohar in Oman when the Iranian commandos attempted to hijack and divert it to Iran.
Nobody took any responsibility for the failed hijacking attempt, escalating tensions as Iran and the US try to find a resolution to their standoff over Tehran’s worn-out nuclear deal with World Powers.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded to the incident that occurred on Tuesday by denying Iran’s role in the incident and also described the recent maritime attacks as completely suspicious.
There have been rising tensions in the waters of the Persian Gulf recently, where a drone attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire killed two crew members last week.
Oman Military’s official news agency said they dispatched Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft and naval vessels as soon as they heard about the Asphalt Princess being hijacked.
Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz has called for firm actions against Iran and its new President, Ebrahim Raisi to prevent future attacks of that sort. He further added that ‘It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds. Otherwise, the attacks will continue.’
Signs of trouble began to emerge that evening when 6 oil tankers in the area were either showing as ‘stopped’ or ‘not under command’ at the time. It typically means a vessel has lost power and can’t move forward.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards denied the involvement of Iranian forces or its allies to hijack the oil tanker Asphalt Princess and said the incident was an excuse for ‘hostile action’ against Tehran.
There have been reports of conflicts around the Arabian Peninsula between Iran and its proxies on one side and Israel, Saudi Arabia and their allies on the other since 2019.
On Thursday night, a British Army veteran working as a security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in a kamikaze drone attack on the bridge of the Mercer Street tanker off the coast of Oman.
The attack was immediately condemned by Israel, the USA and Britain, who blamed Tehran for the drone strikes.