'Potential hijack' of ship off UAE coast has ended: British navy group

'Potential hijack' of ship off UAE coast has ended: British navy group

Potential hijack of ship off UAE coast has ended: British navy group

An incident where a ship may have been hijacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates has ended and the vessel is safe, a UK maritime security agency said on Aug. 4.

"Boarders have left the vessel. Vessel is safe. Incident complete," United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations tweeted, referring to an incident that came five days after an attack on an Israeli-linked tanker bound for the UAE, which the United States and its allies have blamed on Iran.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attempted ship hijack. Shipping authority Lloyd's List and maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global had both identified 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.

The event unfolded amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers and as commercial shipping in the region has found itself caught in the crosshairs.

The U.S. military's Mideast-based 5th Fleet and the British Defense Ministry did not return calls for comment about the reported hijack. The Emirati government did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

Late on Tuesday, as the incident was underway, six oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah had announced around the same time via 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 Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil passes. Fujairah, on the UAE's eastern coast, is a main port in the region for ships to take on new oil cargo, pick up supplies or trade out crew. For the past two years, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The U.S. Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.

Apparently responding to the incident, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the recent maritime attacks in the Persian Gulf as ``completely suspicious.'' He denied that Iran was involved.