The incident at the opening of the Strait of Hormuz – one of the world's busiest waterways – comes days after an attack on an Israeli-linked tanker bound for the UAE.

A picture taken on August 3, 2021 shows the Israeli-linked Japanese-owned tanker MT Mercer Street, off the port of the Gulf Emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
A picture taken on August 3, 2021 shows the Israeli-linked Japanese-owned tanker MT Mercer Street, off the port of the Gulf Emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)

A UK maritime security agency has reported a "potential hijack" on a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, five days after an attack on a tanker left two dead.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations initially reported a "non-piracy" incident on the unnamed ship before upgrading its description on Tuesday.

Maritime security analysts at Dryad Global and Aurora Intelligence identified the endangered ship as the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess.

The MarineTraffic website, which categorises it as an asphalt and bitumen tanker, said it was travelling to Sohar, a port on Oman's northern coast.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards deny Tehran's involvement

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have denied that Iranian forces or allies were involved in action against any ship off the UAE coast, saying the incident was a pretext for "hostile action" against Tehran, Iranian state television said on its website.

"According to information from security sources, Iran's armed forces and all branches of the Islamic Resistance in the Middle East have nothing to do with the incident in the Gulf of Oman," the Guards said in a statement carried by the website.

It said the incident was a move by Western countries and Israel "to prepare the public opinion of the international community for hostile action against the honorable nation of Iran."

Three maritime security sources said earlier that Iranian-backed forces were believed to have seized an oil tanker in the Gulf off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, after Britain's maritime trade agency reported a "potential hijack" in the area.

Britain's foreign ministry meanwhile said it is "urgently investigating" an incident on a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a spokesperson said after Britain's maritime trade agency reported a "potential hijack".

"We are urgently investigating an incident on a vessel off the UAE coast," the spokesperson said in a statement.

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The incident at the opening of the Strait of Hormuz – one of the world's busiest waterways – comes days after an attack on an Israeli-linked tanker bound for the UAE, which the United States and its allies blamed on Iran.

Two crew members of the Japanese-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker, MT Mercer Street, which is managed by a prominent Israeli businessman's London-based company, were killed in an apparent drone attack, the United States and Israel said.

US Navy forces who came to the aid of the crew in response to an emergency distress call saw evidence of the attack, the US military said.

Washington has called for a collective response against Tehran over last week's attack. The Iranian authorities have denied any involvement.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tuesday that "reported 'incidents' in the Persian Gulf and broader region appear utterly suspicious", in a message on Twitter.

"Reaffirming our strong commitment to regional stability and maritime security, Iran stands ready to offer assistance in case of any maritime accidents," Khatibzadeh added.

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Source: AFP