‘Missing’ Oil Tanker Was Towed to Iran for Repairs

Iran says tanker requested assistance for technical problems

Media reports were quick to speculate on the fate of the MT Riah, a small, Panamanian-flagged oil tanker that “disappeared” over the weekend in the Persian Gulf, and which media reports claimed the US had “suspicions” was captured by Iran.

Why the private tanker would’ve been captured in the first place is unclear, but it clearly was not the case, as Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement confirming that the MT Riah had a technical problem in the Strait of Homuz, and was towed to Iran for repairs.

The ship operates out of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but is neither owned nor operated by the UAE. Officials said that the tanker never signaled for help, and at some point its transponder was simply turned off.

This should’ve tipped officials off that this was not some bold capture, as the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most heavily traveled waterways, and there simply would’ve been no way an oil tanker could be boarded and seized without getting off any emergency signal.

Indeed, it is a surprise that even this level of uncertainty was possible, as the ship apparently was able to signal for a request for help to Iran. It’s a surprise that this call for help and the subsequent towing would’ve gone unnoticed in the high-traffic area

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.