UAE Coast Guard aids tanker under fire from Iran navy

The oil products tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by the Iranian Navy before UAE intervened
The oil products tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by the Iranian Navy before UAE intervened
The oil products tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by the Iranian Navy before UAE intervened

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The Singaporean-flagged oil products tanker Alpine Eternity was fired upon by several Iranian coastal patrol boats Thursday while transiting the Strait of Hormuz, prompting the intervention of the UAE, according to a statement by the ship’s owners.

Alpine Eternity "was attacked by a number of small craft," which first fired warning shots and issued calls ordering the ship to stop Thursday morning, said South Maritime Pte Ltd. When the crew ignored the demand and changed course for the UAE, the vessel was reportedly “directly fired upon”.

The ship was en-route to the UAE port of Fujairah at the time of the incident, but turned for Jebel Ali after being surrounded by several small patrol boats. The crew sent out a distress call to the UAE Coast Guard, which sent ships to Alpine Eternity’s aid, according to the statement.

An official with the UAE Coast Guard told the BBC that the Iranian ships broke off their engagement when the UAE Coast Guard arrived on the scene.

Iran is now demanding that the ship be handed over. The incident appears to be connected to an earlier indicent on March 22nd in which Alpine Eternity collided with a submerged oil and gas installation, causing serious damage to the infrastructure and the ship.

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Iranian official, Habib Jadidi, director of the consortium for phase 13 of the South Pars project, has called on Iran's neighbours to seize the vessel and hand it over to Iran for "seriously damaging an Iranian oil platform and fleeing the scene."

He did not specifically mention the United Arab Emirates, but Alpine Eternity is known to be moored in Jebel Ali Port. She was enroute from Hidd in Bahrain to Fujairah at the time of the incident according to AIS data and it unclear when she will attempt to transit the Strait of Hormuz once more.

Iranian authorities accuse Alpine Eternity of “fleeing the scene” following the March 22nd incident, but the ship’s owners say she was badly damaged and taking on water and was therefore unable to remain at sea.

The company added in its statement that the structure the ship hit was "previously uncharted" and that they have been in continuous dialogue with the owners of the platform.

"Owners and managers can see no reason why the Iranian authorities should try to seize the vessel, given the advanced state of negotiations and ongoing dialogue with the Iranian counterparts," the statement added.

Jadidi accuses the ship’s owners of trying to get the vessel out of the region before the issue could be resolved. "We want neighboring countries to make the necessary cooperation on confiscation and handing over of this particular vessel," he reiterated on Iran’s official Press TV.

He added that the structure stands 10m above sea level with “with all the alert lights and other warning systems installed on it” and that South Maritime had caused US $300-million in damage.

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