After the second incident… The US Navy announces that Iran has detained an oil tanker
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized an oil tanker flying the Panamanian flag in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, according to what the US Navy and Tehran announced on Wednesday, in the second such incident in less than a week.
The Public Prosecutor of Tehran announced that the Naval Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard detained the “Niofi” oil tanker, based on a complaint and an order from the judiciary.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, announced that “on May 3, at approximately 6:20 am local time, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Niofi while it was transiting the Strait of Hormuz”.
The oil tanker, which set off from Dubai, was crossing the Persian Gulf towards the port of Fujairah in the Emirates, when it was attacked by dozens of fast attack boats belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, in the middle of the strait, according to the US Navy statement.
The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic passage in the Gulf, through which one-third of the world’s seaborne oil passes.
The statement added, “The Iranian Revolutionary Guard forced the oil tanker to turn around and head to Iranian territorial waters off the Iranian coast of Bandar Abbas”.
Scenes published by the Fifth Fleet on Wednesday showed at least 11 boats approaching the Niofi oil Tanker.
Six days ago, the Iranian navy seized an oil tanker bound for the United States and flying the flag of the Marshall Islands in the Gulf of Oman, after it collided with an Iranian ship, according to Tehran.
According to the “TankerTrackers” website, which specializes in monitoring maritime traffic, the oil tanker that seized last week, called “Advantage Suite”, taken to Bandar Abbas.
The company, “Ambry,” stated that the seizure of the ship on Wednesday comes after the Iranian authorities issued a warning following the US detention of a ship carrying Iranian oil last month.
Ambry said Greek authorities had issued a warning that Greek cargo ships were at heightened risk from Iran after the Greek-operated Swissmax carrying Iranian oil seized.
The US Navy said on Wednesday that in the past two years, Iran had “harassed or attacked” 15 commercial ships flying international flags, in what it considered actions “contrary to international law and disrupt regional security and stability”.
The US Navy added, “Iran’s continued harassment of ships and interference with navigation rights in regional waters is unjustified, irresponsible, and poses a threat to maritime security and the global economy”.
Oil export considered one of Iran’s most important resources before 2018, when the United States, under former President Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear file and re-imposed harsh sanctions on it.
The issue of oil is a point of attraction between the two sides, as Washington accuses Tehran of circumventing sanctions to export its oil to countries such as China, Syria and Venezuela.
“What we’re seeing now is a return to a very familiar pattern of US sanctions pressure and Iranian counter pressure that led to repeated attacks on shipping and energy facilities during” the Trump era, said Torbjorn Soltvedt of consultancy Versk Maplecroft.
“The danger to shipping and energy facilities in the wider region will continue as long as the issue of the Iranian nuclear program remains unresolved,” he added.
In recent years, Washington and Tehran have traded accusations over a series of incidents in the Gulf waters, including mysterious attacks on ships, the downing of a drone, and the seizure of oil tankers.
In September 2022, an Iranian navy fleet briefly detained two US drone ships in the Red Sea.
In November 2021, the Revolutionary Guards announced the release of a Vietnamese tanker after recovering its cargo of oil belonging to the Islamic Republic, after it detained for about two weeks on the background of what it said was an US attempt to confiscate this material.
Washington denied this at the time, noting that its naval forces contented themselves with observing an Iranian navy confiscating an oil tanker and transporting it to its territorial waters.
In July 2019, the Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero as it crossed the Strait of Hormuz.
The Iranian authorities did not release the ship until two months later.
Last week, Britain, the European Union and the United States tightened their sanctions against the guards over human rights violations.
In response, Iran announced punitive measures against individuals and entities in the European Union and Britain, while denouncing the “imposition and tightening of brutal sanctions” on the Islamic Republic of Iran.