Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seized control of a Panama-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz that was transferring cargo from Dubai to Fujairah port in the UAE.
According to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in the Middle East, identified the vessel as the “Niovi,” and released footage showing a dozen IRGC vessels surrounding the tanker.
Those ships “forced the oil tanker to reverse course and head toward Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran,” the Navy said.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy.”
No statement has been issued by officials from the Iranian regime regarding this matter.
At least one-third of the world’s shipped oil pass through the Persian Gulf, making this route vital to global trade.
Ambrey, a maritime security firm, said the latest seizure came after Greek officials warned that Greek vessels were at increasing risk from Iran after the US detained the oil tanker carrying Iranian oil under Greek management last month. Six days ago, Iran’s navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. This waterway is a border between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.
The Tanker Tracker said that the seized tanker, named “Advantage Sweet”, was transported to Bandar Abbas, a major portal city in southern Iran.
Iran has responded to previous oil seizures with all tools at its disposal. Video footage released by the US Fifth Fleet shows at least 11 small boats approaching the “Niovi” tanker on Thursday.
The semi-official Tasnim News Agency, associated to Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, reported the seizure of a “violating” vessel but did not specify the reason for the seizure.
The US Navy has accused Iran of harassing or attacking 15 commercial ships with international flags in the past two years, calling their actions a “violation of international law and a threat to regional security and stability.”
Last week, Western countries intensified sanctions against IRGC. In response, the Iranian regime announced reciprocal measures, including financial sanctions and a ban on the entry of individuals and entities from the European Union and the United Kingdom.
In July 2019, the IRGC seized the British-flagged tanker “Stena Impero” in the same waterway on charges of hitting a fishing boat, only to release the tanker two months later. In 2021, Iran released a South Korean oil tanker that had been held for months over a dispute involving billions of dollars. Last May, Iran also seized two Greek oil tankers.
The Iranian regime’s aggressive behavior is happening as Tehran has been sending signals of aiming for détente with its neighbors. The regime is also at odds with the international community over its nuclear program, with negotiations stuck in a deadlock for two years.