Hijackers seized a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman, then left the targeted ship on Wednesday, the British navy reported, without elaborating. 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, the AP reports. “The vessel is safe,” the group said, without identifying the ship. Shipping authority Lloyd’s List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global both named the hijacked vessel as Panama-flagged asphalt tanker Asphalt Princess. The vessel’s owner, listed as Emirati free zone-based Glory International, could not immediately be reached for comment.
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 toward Oman, just before the British navy group announced the intruders had left. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attempted ship hijack, which unfolded amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Over the past few years, commercial shipping in vital Persian Gulf waterways has increasingly been caught in the crosshairs. (More here.)