A Briton and a Romanian were killed Thursday in what the company described as a “suspected piracy incident” aboard the tanker Mercer Street.
A US defense official familiar with the details of the incident said the tanker was attacked by an armed drone that is believed to be operated by Iran.
Another official said the United States responded to “an emergency distress call from an apparent UAV-style attack” and that the ship was escorted to port by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the destroyer USS Mitscher. U.S. Navy personnel, including explosives experts, boarded the ship to ensure there was no further danger, the official said.
The tanker’s crew reported that the drone exploded in its super structure on Thursday, the U.S. official said. They also reported an unsuccessful drone attack attempt earlier today, but said the drone fell into the water.
Mercer Street was in the northern Indian Ocean at the time of the incident, traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujariah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo on board, the ship’s management company said.
It sails under the Liberian flag, according to the marine traffic tracking website. The ship is Japanese-owned and operated by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based international ship management company run by Israeli shipping tycoon Eyal Ofer.
Zodiac also confirmed on Friday that the ship was under its own power and was moving to a safe location with a US naval escort. For now, the United States will not say which port the Mercer will go to.
According to the company, the coordinates of the incident are in the northeast of the island of Masirah, off the coast of Oman. An official source from the Oman Maritime Safety Center told the Oman State News Agency on Friday that the incident took place outside Omani waters, the agency said.
Oman sent its jets and a Navy ship to the scene of the attack, and Omani officials said the ship and its crew told them it would continue sailing without the need for assistance, a reported the agency.
Zodiac said it is working with UK Maritime Commercial Operations (UKMTO) and authorities as investigations continue.
Later on Friday, the US State Department said it was working “urgently” to determine what had happened.
“The United States offers its sincere condolences to the victims of their loved ones and we are also deeply concerned about the information and are monitoring the situation closely,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters during a briefing. telephone briefing. “We are urgently working with our partners, our international partners, to establish the facts. “
A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense said: “We are aware of reports of an attack on a merchant vessel off the coast of Oman. The British military headquarters in the region are currently investigating. “