News ID: 114663
Publish Date : 03 May 2023 - 23:21

IRGC Seizes Oil Tanker in Strait of Hormuz

TEHRAN – Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, the second-such capture by Tehran in under a week.
The confiscation of the oil tanker Niovi comes amid the disappearance of a crude oil tanker in southeast Asia believed to be carrying Iranian crude oil amid reports it may have been seized by the U.S.
The U.S. Navy published purportedly surveillance footage shot by an aerial drone of about dozen Guard vessels swarming the tanker around 6:20 a.m. The drone had been on a routine patrol in the area and saw the seizure, though the Navy did not receive a distress call from the Niovi itself, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said.
Those IRGC ships directed the oil tanker to reverse course and head toward Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran, the Navy said.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported the IRGC force had seized a “violator” tanker.
Shipping registries show the Niovi as managed by Smart Tankers of Piraeus, Greece. The Niovi had been coming from dry-dock repairs in Dubai, bound for Fujairah on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to the data firm Refinitiv.
Maritime security firm Ambrey has said it believed the Advantage Sweet’s seizure by the Iranian Navy to have been in response to a recent seizure via a court order by the United States of an oil cargo aboard the Marshall Islands tanker Suez Rajan.
According to the International Maritime Organization shipping database the Niovi’s owner is Grand Financing Co, and the ship is managed by Greece-based Smart Tankers.
Last week, Iran seized an oil tanker carrying crude for Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California.
Tehran’s prosecutor announced the oil tanker was seized on a judicial order following a complaint by a plaintiff, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency said. Iran has accused the Advantage Sweet of colliding with another vessel.
About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow choke point between Iran and Oman, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.
The taking of the two tankers in under a week comes amid the disappearance of the Marshall Island-flagged Suez Rajan, which had been in the South China Sea off Singapore for over a year after a report alleged it to carrying Iranian crude oil. Tracking data for the Suez Rajan last showed it off East Africa, moving in a direction that could take it to the Americas.
The Financial Times, as well as the maritime intelligence firm Ambrey, both have reported the Suez Rajan was seized on order of American authorities.
Iran said Monday Iran will not hesitate to take all necessary measures to defend its national interests after the country’s army confiscated the U.S. oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Iran has proved that its hands are not tied up if its national interests are threatened.
U.S. authorities ordered a tanker of Iranian crude oil to redirect towards the U.S. in recent days, in a move that was the trigger for Iran’s decision to capture the U.S.-bound tanker on Thursday, the Financial Times reported.
The paper said the U.S. had intervened to reroute a ship loaded with Iranian crude, originally destined for China.
The U.S. Department of Justice seized the tanker, the Suez Rajan, with cooperation from at least one company involved with the vessel, after it took on board a cargo of Iranian oil, it added.
“The previously unreported U.S. action towards the Suez Rajan shines a new light on Iran’s decision to capture the Advantage Sweet, a U.S.-bound tanker of Kuwaiti crude that was chartered by Chevron,” the FT said.
A U.S. official said Thursday’s “seizure appears to be in retaliation for a prior U.S. seizure of Iranian oil”.
In the past, Iran has retaliated against western countries’ targeting of its crude oil shipments. In 2019, Iran seized two British-flagged tankers shortly after the UK had impounded an Iranian vessel that had stopped at Gibraltar en route to Syria.
Last year, Iran also took two Greek-flagged vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, after Greece had allowed the U.S. to drain the cargo of an Iranian tanker in Greek waters.
The Advantage Sweet Suezmax tanker that Iran seized was operating under a short-term charter for Chevron, one of the largest U.S. oil companies. Its crew, all Indian nationals, are now being held by Iran. It was taken in the Gulf of Oman east of the Hormuz strait, according to U.S. Central Command.
Vessels and crew seized by Iran in the past have eventually been released.