Patterico's Pontifications


UAE Tanker missing in Strait of Hormuz (UPDATED)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 8:26 am

[Headline from DRJ]

United Arab Emirates oil tanker vanishes after drifting into Iranian waters:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US.

It isn’t clear what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late on Saturday night.

However, its last position showed it pointing toward Iran. Oil tankers have previously been targeted as the Persian Gulf region took center stage in a crisis over Iran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

A former Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander recently threatened to seize a British oil tanker in retribution for the British Royal Marines detaining an oil tanker in Gibraltar last Thursdsy. It was suspected of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Iran described the seizure as a dangerous game, and Britain said it would release the tanker if Iran provided certain assurances.

UPDATE: Iran Says Missing Tanker Had Problems and Was Towed for Repairs:

The disappearance was first reported by CNN, which said U.S. intelligence increasingly believed the tanker had been forced into Iranian waters by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but that some Gulf sources suggested the ship simply broke down and was towed by Iran.

Earlier, a United Arab Emirates official said the ship isn’t owned or operated by the U.A.E. and hadn’t sent out a distress call.

While details are unclear, if the Riah was seized, it would seem an unusual target for Iran. The vessel is 30 years old and tiny. Its capacity is 2,000 dead weight tons, according to the MarineTraffic website. That’s only a fraction of the almost 160,000-ton capacity of the British Heritage, the U.K. oil tanker harassed by Iranian ships last week while exiting the Persian Gulf.

Coincidentally, it had to turn off its tracker, too.

UPDATE 7/18/2019: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards impound foreign ship in the Gulf: state TV

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Gulf, state television quoted Iran’s elite force as saying in a statement on Thursday.
Iranian state TV earlier said the seized vessel was the same one Iran towed after it sent a distress call on Sunday, but there was no confirmation of this in the statement issued by the Revolutionary Guards about the impounded vessel.

UPDATE 7/20/2019: Splash 247:

Iranian state television, quoting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said yesterday the Riah, a 1,899 dwt product tanker managed by Dubai’s Prime Tankers, was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island on Sunday after issuing a distress call. According to, Larak Island is where empty Iranian tankers tend to wait for loading instructions.

“A foreign vessel smuggling 1m litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized,” the TV station said. “The vessel that Iran towed to its waters after receiving a distress call was later seized with the order from the court as we found out that it was smuggling fuel.”

The Riah has 12 crew onboard.


13 Responses to “UAE Tanker missing in Strait of Hormuz (UPDATED)”

  1. I would’ve thought that a location as strategically important as the Strait Of Hormuz would have 24hr coverage by monitoring satellites.

    harkin (b0f43e)

  2. “Drifted” into Iranian waters. Sounds fishy, almost like a set-up, especially since they haven’t been heard from since. But as much as Iran is a nuisance in that part of the world (and others), this sounds like an issue for the UAE to deal with. Good luck to them.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  3. There’s also this:

    An Emirati official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing security matter, said the vessel “did not emit a distress call.”

    “We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the official said.

    The ship’s registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told the AP it had sold the ship to another company called Mouj Al-Bahar. A man who answered a telephone number registered to the firm told the AP it didn’t own any ships. The Emirati official said the ship was “neither UAE owned nor operated” and carried no Emirati personnel, without elaborating.

    Nobody seems willing to admit ownership of the tanker.

    As somebody on another site suggested, perhaps the Iranians bought the tanker in some kind of off-the-books (sanctions-evading?) transaction and have simply taken possession of it. Or maybe it’s involved in Iran’s trade with North Korea…

    Dave (1bb933)

  4. The tanker may have traveled to Area 51 to take part in the coordinated storming of the facility and liberation of the real illegal alien activity.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  5. If the tanker’s heading to Iran, it will be stripped to the bones. There be lyin’ thieves there, garrrrrrr!

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  6. This tells me the ship was seized by the Iranian navy.

    Data showed that the ship was on its way to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates before diverting sharply and slowing to a halt in Iranian territorial waters.

    Paul Montagu (fc91e5)

  7. As somebody on another site suggested, perhaps the Iranians bought the tanker in some kind of off-the-books (sanctions-evading?) transaction and have simply taken possession of it. Or maybe it’s involved in Iran’s trade with North Korea…

    Dave (1bb933) — 7/16/2019 @ 10:09 am

    Interesting theory. I am concerned with how weak and ineffective the Trump administration has been at expressing power and avoiding conflict. Iran in particular, though I imagine the North Koreans and Syrians adore Donald Trump as much as the Iranians do. He’s such an opportunity for them. When Trump loses reelection we will probably see some drastic last minute actions around the world to take advantage of the ultimate lame duck. Has anyone ever seem Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump in the same place at the same time???

    Dustin (6d7686)

  8. If there was no distress call — and we don’t know for sure — then the Iranians may have had inside help OR this happened at night/with no lookout and it took the crew by surprise.

    DRJ (15874d)

  9. There’s been the continued issues with ghost ships in the gulf disappearing empty and then emerging full of oil from…somewhere. Was this an Iranian attack? Did the captain/crew get accidentally discovered and now have to have been “hijacked”?

    Since no one is freaking out about it, the latter is more likely, but the former is possible.

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  10. Iran Says Missing Tanker Had Problems and Was Towed for Repairs. Coincidentally, it had to turn off its tracker, too.

    DRJ (15874d)

  11. Sounds legit.

    Dave (55e817)

  12. Supporting Dave’s comment above, Iran may be using tankers like this:

    Shipping experts say U.S. sanctions on Iran intended to halt its oil exports have led to a rise in unusual tanker movements away from shipping lanes, with Iran seeking covert ways to export its oil. Increasingly, ships are switching off location transponders, transferring oil at sea and concealing their routes. Iran has also become more dependent on a fleet of ageing ships, and some have had to be towed for emergency repairs.

    Adding to the riddle of the missing ship was difficulty establishing who owns it, which no country or company has so far publicly claimed. Initial reports described it as Emirati. However, an Emirati official told Reuters the tanker was neither owned nor operated by the UAE.

    DRJ (3a8a8a)

  13. I updated the post.

    DRJ (15874d)

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