0823 GMT September 18, 2021
“Contradictory news from some Western, Zionist and Saudi media about any maritime insecurity and hijacking of ships in regional waters is a kind of psychological warfare and setting the stage for new bouts of adventurism,” Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman of the Armed Forces, said.
“In addition to helping the safe movement of commercial ships, the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran have full intelligence about any suspicious movements and stand completely prepared,” he told Fars News Agency.
“The powerful naval forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Army are ready to provide any assistance and dispatch relief units if necessary and at the request of foreign vessels,” the commander said, Press TV wrote.
Shekarchi made the remarks on Tuesday, after Reuters reported that “Iran-backed forces” were believed to have seized an oil tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Citing maritime security sources, the report identified the seized vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess.
The Times newspaper quoted British sources as saying that they were “working on the assumption Iranian military or proxies boarded” the Asphalt Princess.
In a warning notice based on a third-party source, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) alleged a “potential hijack” and advised ships to exercise extreme caution around 60 nautical miles east of the UAE’s Fujairah emirate.
On Wednesday though, the same agency said the suspected hijacking of a ship in the Gulf of Oman had ended and that the vessel was safe.
"Boarders have left the vessel. Vessel is safe. Incident complete," UKMTO tweeted, without making any clarifications surrounding the incident, and without naming the vessel involved in the alleged incident.
Iran's Embassy in the United Kingdom also reacted to the news, citing its sources in the Persian Gulf as saying there was no information available about any new incidents involving commercial vessels.
The developments came days after the US, the UK and Israel blamed Iran for a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed oil tanker off the coast of Oman.
Also on Tuesday, Britain, Romania and Liberia in a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday repeated claims that it was "highly likely" that Iran had conducted a drone strike on the tanker last week, according to Reuters.
Tehran denied any involvement in the incident and rejected the accusations as “baseless”.
Additionally on Tuesday, several vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates issued a warning via their Automatic Identification System (AIS) trackers that they were “not under command,” suggesting they had lost control of steering.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry also dismissed the rumors about the entry of the country’s military forces into foreign ships passing in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, warning against such false reports propagated by the Western and Zionist media.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, categorically rejected as “untrue” the reports and called on all parties to be vigilant against the spread of fake news, given the contradictory news about maritime security in the region.
Khatibzadeh earlier described as “suspicious” a number of reported security incidents involving ships in the Persian Gulf region and warned against any effort to create a “vicious atmosphere to pursue certain political goals.”
He said Iran pursues the policy of establishing security and stability in the region, adding that the Islamic Republic provides naval support for vessels passing through the strategic waters in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
"Iran's naval forces are ready to provide naval support, if needed, to transit ships in the region," he said. “In case of problems in navigation systems, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to provide assistance and investigate the matter closely."