An aframax tanker has been missing for more than a month after loading a $30m cargo of crude oil in Oman bound for China.

The 106,000-dwt Winsome (built 2000) issued an AIS signal on 5 July shortly after it set out on its voyage from Sohar, Oman, and then stopped transmitting.

The vessel indicated it was heading east at the time of its last transmission, but did not give a destination.

While it is not unusual for tankers in the region to switch off their AIS, the vessel does not appear to have sailed on to China.

There were 30 crew aboard the ship when it departed.

Attempts by TradeWinds to contact the tanker by satellite telephone were unsuccessful.

The cargo involved a company called Orbit Petrochemicals and a Chinese consignee which, along with its cargo insurance interests, are now attempting to locate the vessel.

An AIS signal in early August indicated the vessel is off Khor Fakkan anchorage, but sources involved in attempting to locate the ship told TradeWinds they believe the Winsome is anchored off Bandar Abbas, Iran.

It is unclear what has happened to the vessel. There is speculation that it could have been hijacked by Iranian interests, because of similar recent incidents — and the sometimes murky nature of tanker movements in the region.

Last week, there was a widely reported attempt to hijack the 9,700-dwt tanker Asphalt Princess (built 1976) while in the Gulf of Oman.

Attempted hijacking

It is suspected that the hijacking attempt was made by Iranian interests who wanted to bring the ship to Iran.

The hijacking was thwarted when the ship’s crew disabled the engine and navy forces in the region came to its rescue.

The Winsome is owned by single-ship company Lynx Marine and operates under the technical management of Dubai-based ship manager Clara Shipping.

Clara did not respond to requests for comment. It does not list the Winsome among the vessels under its management on its website.

The ship has had four registered owners in the past year and swapped registers from Liberia to Panama, Gabon and, its current flag, Guyana in that time frame.

There is no information on the vessel’s protection and indemnity insurer on ship databases.

According to port state control database Equasis, the ship’s classification was withdrawn from the Indian Register of Shipping in June 2021. A replacement classification society has yet to be named.

The tanker did have a full renewal survey in April 2020.