Gulf Sky

Missing tanker reappears in Iran after suspected ‘hijacking’

The crude oil tanker MV Gulf Sky, which went missing for several days after going off radar, has reemerged in Iranian waters.

Image Courtesy HRAS

According to Human Rights at Sea, the crew of the ship was allegedly kidnapped on the evening of July 5, 2020, by unknown persons and they were forcedly transferred to Iranian waters.

The vessel had been missing for around nine days, and was traced by website, enagaged in tracking oil trade at sea, yesterday afternoon.

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26 Indian seafarers have been repatriated to India and two still remain in Tehran, awaiting documentary clearance, the Dominica Maritime Flag Administration, and Human Rights at Sea said in a joint statement.

“Our initial concern was regarding the health and welfare of the crew, however, it is abundantly troubling that the crew is claiming that they were either coerced or forced to pick up anchor and get underway knowingly engaging in an act of piracy. 

Piracy, in any form cannot be tolerated and we believe that the crew will deliver the key from which this mystery is unlocked,” President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Dominica International Ship Registry, Eric R. Dawicki, said.

The ship had been under arrest in UAE under a UAE Admiralty Law injunction since January 2020 and was anchored off Port Khor Fakkan Anch, prohibited to sail.

The crude tanker has been entangled into a legal dispute between the current and previous owners of the vessels for financial dues. The situation has resulted in challenging working conditions for the crew who were denied their salaries and even basic provisions during a global pandemic.

The ship is under the current ownership of Muscat-based Taif Mining Services, while the management of the vessel was assigned to Mumbai-registered United Islands Maritime Ventures Private Limited.

A flag state investigation into the case has also discovered a link between the vessel and Amir Dianat, who had been designated by the US Department of Treasury over alleged ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and efforts to generate revenue and smuggle weapons abroad.

The US Justice Department filed criminal charges with regard to the case.

“Both organisations are very pleased that all Indian seafarers are safe and well and that their ordeal is now over, noting that it is understood that two seafarers are awaiting on repatriation from Iran,” the statement reads.

“The 28-man crew will be the ultimate source of the facts of the incident and debriefing is still ongoing by the relevant agencies. Meantime, time, space and support must be given to the crew to settle back into daily life with their friends and families after their ordeal.”

As disclosed, liaison with State authorities, welfare organizations, and all other pertinent parties is still ongoing.