Tanker sought by US over Iran sanction evasion 'hijacked' near UAE

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters after months of tension between Tehran and the US

A seafarers organisation says an oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly trying to circumvent sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Reuters
A seafarers organisation says an oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly trying to circumvent sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Reuters

An oil tanker sought by the US for allegedly trying to circumvent sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers' organisation said on Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday. Two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It was not clear what happened aboard the MT Gulf Sky, although its reported hijacking came after months of tension between Iran and the US.

David Hammond, chief executive of the UK group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky confirming the ship was hijacked.

Mr Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” said Mr Hammond.

He also said that he had no other details on the vessel. TankerTrackers.com, a website monitoring the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island.

The UAE government, the US embassy in Abu Dhabi, and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder about $12 million (Dh44m) to purchase the tanker, then named the MT Nautica. Court documents alleged the scheme involved Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck without pay for months, according to the International Labour Organisation.

It filed a report which said the vessel and its sailors were abandoned by its owners off Khor Fakkan in Sharjah since March.

Updated: July 15, 2020 05:58 PM

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