I don't know about you, but I suspect something mightily weird is going on in the world's shipping lanes, and it's getting too big to ignore. Consider what we've seen in the past few years: off Japan, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship; later, the USS John McCain collided with a ship near Singapore. And who can forget the cargo ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal, after having entered the canal by performing a series of bizarre maneuvers.
Now there's another incident according to this RT article spotted by G.C.:
Note firstly that the article isn't really about strange events involving ships, but rather about Iran's, versus Great Britain's reporting of the same event, an event that Britain regards might be a possible ship hijacking:
Continuous reports about security incidents in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea are “highly suspicious”, Iran has said as the UK’s maritime trade agency reported a fresh “potential hijacking” off the coast of the UAE.
“An incident is currently underway” some 61 nautical miles (113 kilometers) east of the United Arab Emirates region of Fujairah, UK Maritime Trade Operations said on Tuesday. The agency – which is staffed by Royal Navy reservists and monitors marine traffic in the area – also marked the incident as an “attack, hijacking or kidnapping.”
The Times newspaper, citing “British government sources”, reported that a ship named the ‘Asphalt Princess’ was allegedly seized off the coast of Fujairah by a “squad” of about eight or nine armed attackers.
And of course, Britain is blaming Iran for the alleged hijacking:
According to the Times, again citing a government source, British officials are “working on an assumption” that Iran is allegedly behind the apparent attack. Tehran denied any involvement while branding the reports themselves “highly suspicious.”
Would Iran seize a ship? Yes, but in my opinion only under very special circumstances, e.g., the ship was a spy ship, or acting in some covert capacity against Iran, or engaged in provocative behaviour that was perceived as a threat. But otherwise, probably not, and especially now.
So far, so good: the usual Middle East tensions and brinksmanship.
But then, as G.C. pointed out, there's a strange statement, plopped down in the article with no explanation whatsoever, and it's this statement that concerns me:
At least four more vessels sailing near the UAE coast reported on Tuesday they had “lost control” of steering, according to AP. The vessels were oil tankers called Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, Jag Pooja and Abyss, media reports said. The exact circumstances of those incidents remain unclear. (Boldface emphasis added)
Now, unlike the Ever Given blocking the Suez canal, at least this time they're not blaming the loss of steering on "strong winds". But how not one, not two, not three, but four separate ships - all oil tankers - should lose their steering in one of the busiest waterways in the world, one moreover the scene of constant tension, is disturbing, especially if "the exact circumstances of those incidents remain unclear."
At the time of the USS Fitzgerald incident, I speculated that perhaps one of two things had happened, or perhaps some combination of both: (1) both ship's navigation systems had been hacked, or (2) the bridge crews may have been under some sort of mind manipulation influence, or (3) perhaps some combination of both. A retired US Navy friend of mine who knows a great deal about bridge procedures and steering large ships assured me that it was simply bad training and so on, and that eventually was the story the Navy settled on. Quietly, however, they ramped down their dependency on digital systems, and began to "re-analogue" steering systems. I don't know about you, but if I were on a ship (call her the RMS Olympitanic) headed for a collision with an iceberg, I'd feel a lot better if, in addition to computer screens and cursors to steer the thing, there was a great big wheel in the wheel house connected by levers, pulleys, and lots of hydraulics to the rudder that one actually had to physically turn in order to turn the ship. But I digress.
But now we're way beyond the occasional warship-merchant ship collision. We're in new territory, and ships are losing steering, and no one appears to know why, or perhaps they do know why, but they're not saying. The fact that the four ships were all oil tankers, and that their steering loss appears to have occurred in roughly the same general location, suggests that we might be looking at a shore- or space-based technology, a technology moreover perhaps interfering with steering systems remotely via broadcast. In this case, the crew itself becomes part of the steering systems. Did they merely perceive they had lost control? Or were the systems themselves actually being interfered with?
But if not broadcast, then alternatively, were the systems hacked?
And if, indeed, we are looking at such a scenario, then who is behind it? The "usual suspects" certainly come to mind. But I would not rule out non-state actors either.
This strange admission, right in the middle of an article ostensibly about piracy and Middle Eastern finger-pointing, is ultimately, for now, a case of you tell me.
See you on the flip side...