Sign up for myFT Daily Digest and be the first to learn about drone news.
A British maritime security officer and a Romanian crew were killed in a suspected drone attack on an oil tanker near Oman, escalating the threat posed to ships passing through one of the most important trade routes in the world.
The British company Zodiac Maritime, which manages the ship, said the Mercer Street petroleum products tanker linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer was hit in the northern Indian Ocean early on Friday morning.
These two deaths marked a significant escalation in the risks faced by ships passing through this route, which passes approximately one-third of the world’s oil supply almost every day. In recent months, there have been a series of incidents. Maritime security experts accused Iran and Israel of targeting ships associated with these two countries.
Ambrey, the world’s largest supplier Maritime safety The guard said in a statement that a member of his team was “tragically killed in a security incident” on board, but did not elaborate on the circumstances behind the attack.
Three people familiar with the matter said they believed this was a drone attack, but emphasized that they are still waiting for official confirmation of what happened.An American official told the Financial Times: “It [The vessel] Appears to be attacked by a one-way drone exploding drone. This is basically a drone that is loaded with explosives and flies towards the target and explodes upon contact. The U.S. official said that there were “many signs” that it came from Iran. The official added that the ship had reported an attempted attack a few hours ago because a drone appeared to hit waters 20 meters from the ship. .
Zodiac Maritime said in a statement on Friday that the Mercer Street tanker is now being surrounded by a U.S. Navy frigate” but is sailing to a safe place at a speed of 14 knots under the control of the crew.
According to satellite tracking data, in recent months, the Mercer Street tanker regularly travels between East Africa and the oil center in Fujairah, UAE.
The attack occurred at a time when tensions in the region escalated because of negotiations with world powers on a nuclear agreement Tehran Was shelved.
A spokesperson for the British government confirmed that they were aware of the incident and stated that “the British military headquarters in the area is currently investigating.”
In an earlier statement, Zodiac Maritime stated that the incident was a “pirate”, but the British Maritime Trade Operations, the Royal Navy’s Information Department and the Horn of Africa Maritime Security Center (MSC-HOA) all denied this. .
According to people familiar with the matter, when the attack occurred, people on a ship within 5 nautical miles of Mercer Street received very high-frequency transmissions from the tanker, which was reported to be a drone.
MSC-HOA stated that the report of the attack was “following another report that saw a drone that appeared to be a drone dropped into the water, but there is currently no way to link the two incidents”. It advises ships to “be extra careful” when crossing the area.
Munro Anderson, the founding partner of Dryad Global, a maritime safety analysis company, said that the incident was probably a drone sent by Iran.
He said in a report: “Although many details have not yet been confirmed, this latest attack bears the hallmark of the ongoing Israel-Iran’shadow war’, which has seen attacks on ships associated with each country. The attack was exchanged.”