London — A chemical tanker which was attacked by armed men Tuesday and taken to Iranian waters has now been released, according to a notice by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which monitors maritime security in the region.
Maritime security consultancy Dryad Global said it had identified the SC Taipei as the likely "tanker" which had been boarded by armed men whilst at anchor.
Data from Platts trade flow service cFlow show that SC Taipei, which can hold a 20,000 mt cargo, was in Fujairah, UAE, before the ship diverted to the southwest tip of Iran's coast.
The UKMTO confirmed later Tuesday that the tanker has been released and "is now under the control of the master," adding that the ship and crew are safe.
The tanker was on its way to Jubail in Saudi Arabia, home to two oil refineries, before changing path to go to Iran, and is now just west of the Iranian port of Bandar e-Jask.
The SC Taipei was previously carrying a cargo of a petrochemical called styrene monomer, which is a key component in making plastics, cFlow data showed.
Representatives at Iran's oil ministry declined to comment on the incident.
The UKMTO said it is still monitoring the situation and advised all vessels in the vicinity to stay "vigilant" and "exercise caution."
"Details regarding this event remain fluid and it is currently unclear whether the vessel is in distress or is being assisted by Iran in some way," said Dryad Global in a report, adding that "her current location does not correspond with any known commercial activity in the region."
A representative at Fantasea Ship Management Pte. Ltd which operates the tanker was unavailable for comment.
This incident comes almost nine months after attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure and after a number of tanker-related incidents in the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint in 2019 and 2018, which raised geopolitical risks in the world's biggest oil producing basin.
Ship operators in the Middle East have been on high alert, and insurance rates have soared since tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman last year. The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, although Iran denies responsibility. Tensions escalated after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, re-imposing sanctions on the country.
Iran has repeatedly issued threats to close or disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, should US sanctions block its oil shipments.