Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

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A seafarers group says an oil tanker sought by the U.S. over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —
An oil tanker sought by the U.S. over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a seafarers welfare group stated Wednesday.

Satellite tv for pc images confirmed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained within the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t instantly clear what occurred aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, although its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the U.S.

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, stated he took a witness assertion from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond stated that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it again to India, whereas two remained in Tehran, with out elaborating.

“We’re delighted to listen to that the crew are protected and effectively, which has been our basic concern from the outset,” Hammond instructed The Related Press.

Hammond stated that he had no different particulars on the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a web site monitoring the oil commerce at sea, stated it noticed the vessel in satellite tv for pc images on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. Hormuz Island, close to the port metropolis of Bandar Abbas, is a few 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a metropolis on the jap coast of the United Arab Emirates the place the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati authorities, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based fifth Fleet didn’t reply to requests for remark. Iranian state media didn’t report on the vessel. Iran’s mission to the United Nations didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In Might, the U.S. Justice Division filed legal fees in opposition to two Iranians, accusing them of attempting to launder some $12 million to buy the tanker, then named the MT Nautica, by means of a sequence of entrance corporations. The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to promote overseas, the U.S. authorities stated.

Court docket paperwork allege the scheme concerned the Quds Drive of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, in addition to Iran’s nationwide oil and tanker corporations. The 2 males charged, one among whom additionally has an Iraqi passport, stay at giant.

“As a result of a U.S. financial institution froze the funds associated to the sale of the vessel, the vendor by no means acquired cost,” the Justice Division stated. “Consequently, the vendor instituted a civil motion within the UAE to get well the vessel.”

That civil motion was believed to nonetheless be pending, elevating questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Information from the MT Gulf Sky’s Computerized Identification System tracker reveals it had been turned off on July 5, in accordance with ship-tracking web site MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to maintain their AIS trackers on, however Iranian vessels routinely flip theirs off to masks their actions.

In the meantime, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel discovered themselves caught on board with out pay for months, in accordance with the Worldwide Labor Group. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been deserted by its house owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO didn’t reply to a request for remark.

As tensions between Iran and the U.S. heated up final 12 months, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast grew to become targets, significantly close to the essential Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf’s slender mouth by means of which 20% of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine assaults the U.S. blamed on Iran focused a number of tankers. Iran denied being concerned, although it did seize a number of tankers.

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Comply with Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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