Panama-flagged oil tanker stops transmitting signal in the Strait of Hormuz

A Panamanian-flagged oil tanker has stopped transmitting its signal more than two days ago after straying into Iranian waters while it was traveling over the Strait of Hormuz, tracking data seen by Al Arabiya English showed.

According to Georgios Hatzimanolis, a media strategist for the ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com, the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah has not reported a position in over two days.

A track of the ship from MarineTraffic.com beginning on July 5 until the day it stopped transmitting positions showed that the vessel was positioned initially near a port off the coast of the UAE. It then made a re-approach after ending up close to the coast of Ras al-Khaimah. The vessel then appeared to approach Iranian waters on the Strait of Hormuz after which it stopped transmitting its signal.

“From what I can see the vessel has been almost exclusively operating in the UAE for the last year, traveling between Sharjah and Fujairah,” Hatzimanolis told Al Arabiya English.

“It is owned by Prime Tankers, which operates out of Dubai, and is insured by West England P&I,” he added.

Recently, oil tankers have been targeted over the rising tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

According to MarineTraffic, Riah transmitted its last signal at 11:58 local time on Saturday night close to Iran’s Larak Island, one of Iran’s major oil export points.

The Associated Press spoke to Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv who said that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE, adding that it was “a red flag” for it to do so now.

According to AP, Prime Tankers LLC 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 did not own any ships.

The incident comes exactly two months after two tankers were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, and three months after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck. The United States has blamed Iran for the attacks on the Front Altair vessel on June 13.

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