Report: Iranian Forces Boarded, Released Tanker in Gulf of Oman

Location of the tanker diversion incident (UKMTO)

Published Apr 15, 2020 3:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Leading UK-based maritime security company Ambrey Intelligence reported Wednesday that the incident involving the product tanker SC Taipei in the Gulf of Oman was instigated by Iranian forces. 

"The vessel was approached 48 nm offshore Fujairah and hailed by four skiffs carrying armed Iranian coastguard personnel," Ambrey said in an advisory. "The vessel’s crew were ordered to lower the ladder and were then boarded. The vessel was later directed to Kooh Mobarak, Iran, but quickly released with crew and vessel now confirmed safe."

The Royal Navy maritime security monitoring branch UKMTO confirmed that the tanker and her crew have been released unharmed. As of Wednesday afternoon, AIS data shows that the SC Taipei has returned to an anchorage off the UAE. 

"This is assessed to be an isolated incident of state-based intervention, with no wider threat to maritime shipping in the region," wrote UKMTO in an advisory note. "All vessels in the vicinity are to stay vigilant and to report any incidents." 

Ambrey reported that other vessels in the region have also experienced brief interactions with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boats in recent weeks. According to the consultancy and other maritime security advisors, the heightened IRGC activity may be a reaction to strict American sanctions and the resulting economic pressure on Iran. The IRGC has an extensive history of interaction with merchant traffic in the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz, including hijackings, alleged bomb attacks and (in decades past) naval mine deployment.

The boarding and diversion of the SC Taipei was first reported by maritime security consultancy Dryad Global.