'Potential hijack' under way off UAE coast -UK maritime trade agency

·2 min read
Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker that was attacked is seen off Fujairah Port

By Lisa Barrington

DUBAI (Reuters) -A "potential hijack" was unfolding off the coast of the United Arab Emirates' Fujairah region on Tuesday, Britain's maritime trade agency reported, without giving details on the vessel or vessels involved.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had in an earlier warning notice, based on a third party source, advised ships to exercise extreme caution due to an incident around 60 nautical miles east of Fujairah.

The area in the Arabian Sea leads to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world's seaborne oil exports flow.

The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

On Tuesday afternoon at least five ships in the sea between the UAE and Iran updated their AIS tracking status to "Not Under Command", according to Refinitiv ship tracking data. Such a status generally indicates a ship is unable to manoeuvre due to exceptional circumstances.

Reuters could not confirm this Refinitiv data had any connection to the reported incident.

Last week an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain.

Iran denied involvement in that suspected drone attack and said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months.

Tensions have increased in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy.

(Writing by Lisa BarringtonEditing by Ghaida Ghantous and Mark Heinrich)

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