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Oman on Wednesday identified the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess as the tanker involved in a hijacking which Britain’s maritime trade agency earlier said was over.

The statement by Oman’s Maritime Security Centre was the first official confirmation of Tuesday’s incident in the Arabian Sea which maritime security sources had told Reuters involved suspected Iranian-backed forces. Iran denied any involvement.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said in a warning notice based on a third-party source on Wednesday that people who had boarded a tanker involved in a “potential hijack” had since left and that the vessel, which it did not identify, was safe.

The AIS tracking status of the asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess was “Underway Using Engine” early on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.

The Oman Maritime Security Centre said in a statement it had received information about the Asphalt Princess being subjected “to a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman”, but gave no further details.

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The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has warned of the alarming increase in the number of reports of abandoned seafarers in 2021.

The cases are being reported to the IMO’s and International Labor Organisation’s (ILO) joint database.

According to the database, from 1 January 2020 to 1 April 2021, 111 new cases had been reported, with 85 cases in 2020 and 26 cases in the first quarter of 2021. 

As of 26 July, of this spike of 111 new cases, only 43 have been resolved. 

Around 18 cases reported since 1 January 2020 were related to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has complicated the crew change situation of seafarers. In the previous three months, a further 27 cases were reported, bringing the total number of new cases this year to 53. 

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The Somali piracy High Risk Area is designated by the BMP Co-Authors. The HRA was implemented over a decade ago and represents where it is considered a higher threat of attack from pirates exists, and additional security requirements may be necessary. The HRA was last amended in May 2019, and the Co-Authors began a further review of the extent of the area in February 2021.

The review takes into consideration representations made by Kenya concerning the extent of the HRA in their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These were discussed directly with the Co-Authors and in the plenary debate of the IMO’s 103rd session of its Maritime Safety Committee. Although IMO plays no formal role in the designation of the HRA, the Committee encouraged the BMP Co-authors and appropriate bodies to continue to work on the matter with regional stakeholders, including coastal States and military authorities; and the Co-Authors committed to report on the findings of the review process at MSC 104.

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GAC Yemen advise that the Yemeni Ministry of Transport has announced the re-opening of the Port of Mokha (Mukha) to commercial shipping after its closing upon the outbreak of war in Yemen more than six years ago. GAC further inform that the port of Mokha is located at the Red Sea coast of Yemen with coordinates (13.19°N, 43.04°E) and has two jetties with a total length of 430m and draft of 7.2m.

The updated status of Yemen ports is now as follows:

Open ports

  1.  Aden
  2.  Rudhum Oil Terminal
  3.  Qena
  4.  Mukalla
  5.  Ash Shihr Oil Terminal
  6.  Nishtun
  7.  Mokha
  8.  Hodeidah
  9.  Saleef

Closed Ports

  1. Balhaf LNG Terminal
  2. Ras Isa Marine Terminal