At least three maritime security sources report that five civilian vessels, four of them tankers, were on Tuesday night, Aug. 3, under attack possibly hijacked by Iranian or proxy forces. One ship was identified as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess. They were sailing near United Arab Emirates shores when “a non-piracy incident” was reported by British maritime authorities.
Four of the ships warned they had lost control of their steering under unspecified circumstances and signaled their status as “not under command.” According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, this status may refer alternatively to a hostile force boarding the ship and taking command of the bridge or, possibly, a cyberattack on the ship’s steering mechanism and radar. Details surrounding the five commercial vessels’ plight ae still under investigation.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry disowned any part of the episode and, in fact, complained that reports of security incidents involving several ships near the UAE coast on Tuesday were “suspicious” and warned against efforts to generate a “false atmosphere” against the Islamic Republic.
The atmosphere in the Gulf region is, however, already pregnant with real tension as the US, Israel, the UK and Romania ponder a “collective” reprisal for the Iranian drone attack on the Israeli-operated Mercy Street off the coast of Oman last Thursday.