DUBAI – Two crew members, a British and a Romanian, were killed when a petroleum tanker operated by Israeli company Zodiac Maritime was attacked off the coast of Oman on Thursday, the company said on Friday.
London-based Zodiac said on its website that the attack in the Arabian Sea on Mercer Street, a Japanese ship flying the Liberian flag, was still under investigation.
Earlier on Friday, he called the incident suspected piracy, but the United Kingdom’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides information on maritime safety, said it was not piracy.
“Details of the incident are still being worked out and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. We continue to work closely with UKMTO and other relevant authorities,” said Zodiac, who belongs to the wealthy Israeli Ofer family.
He said he was “aware of no harm done to other staff” other than the British and Romanian crew members who were killed.
UKMTO said the ship was about 152 nautical miles (280 km) northeast of the Omani port of Duqm when it was attacked. He did not give more details on the type of ship, the cargo, to whom it belonged or on any victims.
In an advisory note, UKMTO said it had been informed that regional search and rescue authorities and coalition forces had been tasked with assisting the vessel.
According to Refinitiv’s vessel tracking, the Mercer Street, a mid-size tanker, was heading to Fujairah, a bunkering port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates, from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Tensions have grown in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Tehran nuclear deal with The big powers.
Washington blamed Iran for a number of attacks on ships in strategic Gulf waters, including four ships, including two Saudi tankers, in May 2019. Iran has distanced itself from these attacks.
In recent months, Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of reciprocal attacks on their ships.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Jonathan Saul and Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alex Richardson, Alison Williams, Sonali Paul, Nick Macfie and Timothy Heritage)