‘Potential hijack’ blamed as four ships in Gulf of Oman lose control of steering

3 August 2021, 17:34

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Shipping stock. Picture: PA

Oil tankers reported through their Automatic Identification System trackers that they were ‘not under command’.

At least four ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates have broadcast warnings that they have lost control of their steering under unclear circumstances as authorities reported “an incident” was under way in the area.

It was not immediately clear what was happening off the coast of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman, but a Royal Navy group said there had been a “potential hijack”.

The vessels — oil tankers called Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, Jag Pooja and Abyss — reported through their Automatic Identification System trackers that they were “not under command”, according to MarineTraffic.com.

That typically means a vessel has lost power and can no longer steer.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations organisation had warned ships that “an incident” was under way, and hours later said it was a “potential hijack”.

An Oman Royal Air Force Airbus C-295MPA, a maritime patrol aircraft, was flying over the area where the ships were, according to data from FlightRadar24.com.

The event comes days after a drone struck an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman, killing two crew members, including one Briton.

The West blamed Iran for the attack, which marked the first known assault to have killed civilians in the years-long shadow war targeting commercial vessels in the region.

Iran denied any role in the incident, although Tehran and its allied militias have used similar “suicide” drones in attacks previously.

Israel, the US and the UK vowed a “collective response” to the attack, without elaborating.

By Press Association