Sailors onboard an oil tanker that serves as floating storage for an Iraqi state oil company found a suspicious object on its hull, private security firms said Thursday.
The firms say officials fear it could be a limpet mine on the MT Pola, a Liberian-flagged tanker that was receiving assistance in the Persian Gulf off Basra.
The two firms, Ambrey Intelligence and Dryad Global, say investigations are ongoing.
The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an organization under Britain's royal navy, said on its website that an ``unknown object'' had been attached to a ship's hull in the vicinity of Iraq's Khor Al-Zubair Port, without providing further information.
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iraqi officials could not be immediately reached.
The Pola, along with another tanker, serves as floating fuel oil storage of Iraq's State Organization of Marketing of Oil, the data-analysis firm Refinitiv said. Smaller vessels carry the fuel oil to the ship, which then conducts ship-to-ship transfers in the Persian Gulf to clients.
Dryad Global posted a satellite photo that it said showed the Pola conducted a ship-to-ship transfer with the MT Nordic Freedom, a Bermuda-flagged tanker. The owners of the Nordic Freedom, the company Nordic American Tankers, could not be immediately reached. That firm is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. In 2019, the U.S. blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all the world's oil passes. Iran denies being involved.