VLCC Catches Fire off UAE
Authorities in the UAE report that a tanker has caught fire at a position about 20 miles off the coast of Sharjah.
The UAE's Federal Transport Authority – Land & Maritime (FTA) said in a statement Wednesday that it is "working to put out a fire that broke out aboard an oil tanker 21 miles off the coast of Sharjah after receiving a distress message."
The vessel's crewmembers have been rescued and all are safe, according to UAE state media.
Open-source intelligence consultants have identified the vessel as the 1996-built VLCC Zoya 1. Video from the scene shows that she is in ballast.
Federal Transport Authority – Land & Maritime (FTA) stated that the UAE authorities are working to put out a fire that broke out aboard an oil tanker 21 miles off the cost of Sharjah after receiving a distress message. A proper investigation is in progress. pic.twitter.com/HE5pEDrUyj— Jaber Al Lamki (@jallamki) January 29, 2020
The 300,000 dwt, Panamanian-flagged Zoya 1 appears to have been stationary off the coast of Sharjah for at least the past year, and previous reports indicate that her tenure in the area may be longer. In 2018, her crew issued a desperate plea for assistance, claiming that they had been stranded since 2017 due to a legal dispute involving the vessel's owner. At the time, they asserted that they had not been paid in months and that they did not know when they might be able to expect a crew change.
Given the previous attacks on tankers in the region and the ongoing tensions between Iran and its neighbors (including the UAE), the incident has attracted speculation about the possibility of an intentional act. However, officials in the UAE understand that the fire likely began during routine maintenance. An investigation into the cause is in progress.
The Royal Navy's UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) issued an advisory Wednesday night warning shipping interests to "exercise extreme caution" while transiting the area near the vessel. UKMTO noted that it has not classified the advisory as a maritime security event.