Panama-flagged oil tanker stops transmitting signal in the Strait of Hormuz

A tracking report on the ship from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship stopped tracking on Saturday night, having previously been tracked off the coast of the UAE.

A Panamanian-flagged oil tanker stopped transmitting its signal more than two days ago after straying into Iranian waters while it was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, Al Arabiya English has learned.

According to Georgios Hatzimanolis, a media strategist for the ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com, the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah has not reported a position in over two days.

A tracking report of the ship from MarineTraffic.com seen by Al Arabiya English showed that the vessel began its journey near a port off the coast of Dubai in the UAE on July 5. It then tracked near the coast of Ras al-Khaimah when it changed course and traveled north toward Iranian waters near the Strait of Hormuz, after which it stopped transmitting its signal on Saturday night.

“From what I can see the vessel has been almost exclusively operating in the UAE for the last year, traveling between Sharjah and Fujairah,” Hatzimanolis told Al Arabiya English. “It is owned by Prime Tankers, which operates out of Dubai, and is insured by West England P&I,” he added.

An Emirati official confirmed to Al Arabiya that the oil tanker is not owned or operated by the UAE and has not sent a distress call.

“The tanker in question is neither UAE owned nor operated. It does not carry Emirati personnel and did not emit a distress call. We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the Emirati official said.

Recently, oil tankers have been targeted over the rising tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

According to MarineTraffic, Riah transmitted its last signal at 11:58 local time on Saturday night close to Iran’s Larak Island, one of Iran’s major oil export points.

The Associated Press spoke to Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv who said that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE, adding that it was “a red flag” for it to do so now.

According to AP, Prime Tankers LLC had sold the ship to another company called Mouj al-Bahar. A man who answered a telephone number registered to the firm told the AP it did not own any ships.

The incident comes two months after two tankers were hit in attacks in the Gulf of Oman, and three months after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck. Iran has been suspected of carrying out both attacks. The US military released images that it said showed Iran’s IRGC removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which was hit by explosions along with the Norwegian-owned Front Altair ship on June 13.

Last week, Britain said that three Iranian vessels unsuccessfully tried to impede the passage of a British commercial vessel through the Strait of Hormuz.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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