DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. officers speak they’re unsure whether an oil tanker towed into Iranian waters used to be seized by Iran or rescued after going through mechanical faults as Tehran asserts, rising a mystery at sea at a time of excessive stress within the Gulf.

FILE PHOTO: A British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards the oil supertanker Grace 1, that’s on suspicion of carrying Iranian vulgar oil to Syria, as it sits anchored in waters of the British foreign territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

The MT Riah disappeared from ship monitoring maps when its transponder used to be switched off within the Strait of Hormuz on July 14. Its ideal situation used to be off the soar of the Iranian island of Qeshm within the strait.

Iran says it towed a vessel into its waters from the strait after the ship issued a harm name. Even although Tehran failed to name the vessel, the Riah is the finest ship whose recorded movements appear seemingly to compare that description.

A U.S. reliable, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it seemed that the tanker used to be in Iranian territorial waters, nonetheless it used to be unsure whether that used to be because Iran had seized it or rescued it.

The mystery comes at a time when Washington has known as for bigger safety for ships within the Gulf.

Iran has threatened to retaliate for the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating sanctions on Syria. Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has branded the British action “piracy”.

The United States has also blamed Iran for assaults on tankers within the Gulf since Would possibly maybe, which Tehran denies.

Transport consultants speak U.S. sanctions on Iran supposed to halt its oil exports catch resulted in a upward thrust in irregular tanker movements faraway from shipping lanes, with Iran searching for covert programs to export its oil. An increasing number of, ships are switching off pickle transponders, transferring oil at sea and concealing their routes. Iran has also become more depending on a instant of ageing ships, and a few catch needed to be towed for emergency repairs.

Adding to the riddle of the missing ship used to be pickle establishing who owns it, which no country or firm has to this level publicly claimed. Preliminary experiences described it as Emirati. On the different hand, an Emirati reliable told Reuters the tanker used to be neither owned nor operated by the UAE.

The tanker’s registered supervisor is High Tankers within the UAE. That firm told Reuters it had provided the tanker to any other UAE-based mostly entirely firm, Mouj al-Bahar. An employee at Mouj al-Bahar told Reuters that the agency failed to catch it nonetheless had been managing the vessel as a lot as 2 months ago, and that it used to be now under the administration of a firm known as KRB Petrochem. Reuters might maybe maybe not reach KRB Petrochem for comment.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Parisa Hafezi, Ghaida Ghantous and Alex Cornwell; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Peter Graff