Missing Tanker Turns Up in Iranian Waters

Crew of the Gulf Sky (HRAS)

Published Jul 15, 2020 1:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The tanker Gulf Sky, which recently disappeared from an anchorage in the UAE despite an arrest warrant, has been located at a position in Iranian waters off the coast of Hormuz Island. Her master told the UK-based charity Human Rights at Sea that she had been hijacked.

On Tuesday, HRAS reported that the Gulf Sky's AIS had gone dark and that the vessel had gone missing from the Port Khor Fakkan anchorage. At the time of her disappearance, Gulf Sky was under arrest due to court proceedings related to an ownership dispute, and her crew had been stranded on board for months. HRAS and Gulf Sky's flag state informed authorities of the disappearance and began a search. 

TankerTrackers.com located Gulf Sky within 24 hours of the report, posting a satellite image of Gulf Sky at a position west of Iranian-controlled Hormuz Island - about 100 nm to the north of Khor Fakkan. 

Human Rights at Sea reported Wednesday that it has since heard from Gulf Sky's master and obtained a witness statement via WhatsApp. The master reported that the vessel had been hijacked on July 5, but that all crew were safe. Two crewmembers are still in Tehran and the rest have returned home to India.

The 1998-built Gulf Sky (ex name Nautic) has been entangled in a long legal dispute involving American sanctions on Iran. In September 2019, two Iranian nationals allegedly attempted to circumvent U.S. sanctions in order to buy the Nautic on behalf of Iranian petroleum interests - including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. Department of Justice brought charges of money laundering against both men, and it filed a civil forfeiture complaint to seize $12 million in funds that were allegedly routed through the U.S. financial system for the transaction. The vessel has languished off the UAE for months while awaiting the outcome of a forfeiture case brought by her former owners.