Oil tanker ‘vanishes’ in Iranian waters

by Kim Boateng Posted on July 16th, 2019

An oil tanker last observed transiting the troubled Gulf of Hormuz has not reported its position for two days, with its last known location well inside Iranian waters.

The mystery of the 68-metre Riah’s whereabouts has further heightened tensions in the powder keg region, with the speculation being that it has been seized by Iran.

Oil tankers have previously been targeted in the Persian Gulf region during the escalating crisis over Iran’s unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

Tracking data shows an oil tanker, based in the United Arab Emirates, was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz when it entered Iranian waters and its geo-location beacon suddenly went dead.

No message has been received from the vessel and it is not clear what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late on Saturday night.

The concern about the Riah comes as Iran continues its own campaign over its nuclear programme after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord more than a year ago.

Brinksmanship goes up a notch

Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.

However, those tensions have also seen the US send thousands of additional troops, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets into the Middle East.

Mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone have added to the fears of an armed conflict breaking out.

The Riah, known as the Chahat under previous owners is a relatively small vessel by tanker standards, typically making shuttle runs from Dubai and Sharjah on the UAE’s west coast before going through the strait and heading to Fujairah on the UAE’s east coast.

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