The tanker, which was making its way through the Strait of Hormuz, stopped reporting its location over two days ago.
Oil tanker Riah, which, according to vessel location tracking websites, stopped transmitting signals on its location in the early hours of 14 July, didn’t issue any emergency signals, a highly-profile Emirate official told Al-Arabiya on Tuesday.
“The oil tanker is not owned, and nor is used by the United Arab Emirates, it hasn’t trasmitted any SOS signals,” the speaker told the television channel, busting reports that the vessel had changed its course and got lost in the Strait of Hormuz off the Iranian coast.
Earlier in the day, an unnamed US defense official told The Associated Press that America “has suspicions” that Iran seized an oil tanker based in the UAE.
The 190-foot MT Riah, carrying the flag of Panama, was last mapped in the vicinity of Iran, near the island of Qeshm, which hosts a local Revolutionary Guard base, according to Haaretz.
Oil tankers have been lately targeted in a number of sabotage attacks in the area. Four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, belonging to Norway, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were left crippled in a series of explosions that damaged their hulls in May 2019. While an investigation by the UAE has failed to determine who masterminded the “sabotage”, the US has accused Iran of it, with the latter flatly denying the claims. Iran has denounced alleged false-flag operations directed against it, warning that they lead to instability in the region.
Along with oil tanker sabotage, the Persian Gulf region became central in a standoff over Iran’s embattled nuclear deal with world powers, with one of Iranian tankers being seized in early July by British Marines in Gibraltar. The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 was stopped on suspicions that the vessel was transferring crude oil to Syria from Iran in violation of EU sanctions.