US demands commercial vessels send Gulf transit plans in advance

British cruise line P&O has canceled cruises around Dubai and the Arabian Gulf until at least March next year after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the region. (Supplied)
Updated 08 August 2019

US demands commercial vessels send Gulf transit plans in advance

  • P&O cancels Dubai and Gulf cruises amid escalating geopolitical tensions in the Strait of Hormuz

DUBAI: The US maritime agency has told US-flagged commercial vessels they should send transit plans in advance to American and British naval authorities if they intend to sail in Gulf waters following several incidents over tankers involving Iran.

The seizure of commercial vessels and attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz have unsettled shipping lanes that link Middle Eastern oil producers to global markets.

The US, which has increased its military forces in the region, has blamed Iran for blasts on several tankers near the Strait, a charge Tehran denies.

Britain said on Monday it was joining the US in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect vessels after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker.

“Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels,” the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) said in an advisory on Wednesday.

“Associated with these threats is a potential for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive actions,” it added.

Ships should also alert the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations in the event of any incident or suspicious activity. It warned they could face interference to their global positioning systems (GPS).

MARAD said in at least two incidents involving commercial vessels and Iran since May 2019 ships had reported interference with their GPS and “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or other warships.

It advised crews to decline Iranian forces permission to board if the safety of the ship and crew would not be at risk but said they should not forcibly resist any boarding party.

Traffic through the Strait, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes, has become the focus for a standoff between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump quit a 2015 nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran says the responsibility of securing these waters lies with Tehran and other countries in the region.

“The maritime coalition that US is trying to form will create more instability and insecurity,” Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday during phone calls with his counterparts from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

Washington is lobbying other nations to join the coalition along with Britain, which has the largest naval presence in the area after the US.

Earlier, P&O Cruises said it had canceled cruises around Dubai and the Arabian Gulf after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the region.

Citing increased tensions, the company said it has canceled its planned program in the region from October until at least March next year and all guests be issued a full refund.

“As a British company flying the Red Ensign it is not advisable for us to maintain our planned Dubai and Arabian Gulf program this winter season,” said Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president.

“We have therefore taken the unusual step of withdrawing Oceana from the region for the upcoming season.”


Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

Updated 2 min 30 sec ago

Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

  • G20 finance leaders to meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy
  • OPEC+ has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Friday as weak Asian data and a rise in new coronavirus cases fuelled uncertainty about the economic outlook while leading crude producers appeared to be in no rush to curb output.

Brent crude was down $1.56, or 2.6 percent, at $57.75 in afternoon trade, while U.S. crude dropped $1.25, or 2.3 percent, to $52.63.

"With Brent failing to breach the $60 level on Thursday despite better than expected U.S. oil inventory data, rising market uncertainty is dragging down oil prices on Friday," said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

"Market participants who benefited from the price rise in recent days might prefer not to go into the weekend with a long position."

 

China reports rise in coronavirus cases.

Japan factory activity shrinks at fastest pace since 2012.

Russia says early OPEC+ meeting no longer makes sense.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy after new Asian economic and health data kept investors on guard.

Beijing reported an uptick in coronavirus cases on Friday and South Korea reported 100 new cases, doubling its infections. In Japan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus.

Factory activity in Japan registered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, hurt by fallout from the outbreak.

"We still believe that the market is likely to trade lower from current levels, given the scale of the surplus over the first half of this year, and the need for the market to send a signal to OPEC+ that they must take further action at their meeting in early March," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that global oil producers understood it would no longer make sense for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to meet before the planned gathering.

The group, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs.