DUBAI, April 27 (Reuters) – Iran on Thursday seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman in international waters, the US Navy said, the latest in a string of seizures or attacks on merchant ships in sensitive waters of golf since 2019.
The Iranian army said it had seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman after it collided with an Iranian boat, injuring several crew members, Iranian state media reported.
“Two members of the boat’s crew are missing and several were injured as a result of the ship’s collision with the boat,” the army said in a statement.
The US Navy identified the ship as the Advantage Sweet According to ship-tracking data from Refinitiv, it is a Suezmax crude oil tanker chartered by oil major Chevron and most recently docked in Kuwait.
The US port of Houston in the Gulf of Mexico was given as the destination of the ship, as the ship tracking data showed.
Its manager is listed as Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati AS, a Turkey-based company that did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Marshall Islands Shipping Register also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Iran’s continued harassment of ships and interference with navigation rights in regional waters pose a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the US Navy said, adding that Iran has illegally seized at least five merchant ships in the past two years the middle east have confiscated.
The US Navy added that after dispatching a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the situation, “we have since been able to determine that the IRIN (Iranian Navy) conducted the seizure.”
Iranian authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
According to data from analytics firm Vortexa, about one-fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage between Iran and Oman through which the Advantage Sweet passed.
ON BOARD BY HELICOPTER
Maritime security company Ambrey said the ship was boarded by helicopter. “The ship showed no signs of evasive maneuvers prior to the incident,” it said.
Munro Anderson of maritime security firm Dryad said separately that Iran usually detains ships for “levering or signalling”.
“The working hypothesis right now is that it could either be an arbitrary arrest of a ship by Iran in response to the US running its first unmanned vessel through the region last week — as a show of force,” he said. “Or it could be in response to US sanctions on April 24 against personnel in Iran associated with the IRGC[Elite Revolutionary Guards].”
Since 2019, there have been a series of attacks on shipping in the strategic waters of the Gulf amid tensions between the United States and Iran.
Iran last November released two Greek-flagged tankers it seized in the Gulf in May in response to the United States’ seizure of oil from an Iranian-flagged tanker off the Greek coast.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers have stalled since September over a range of issues, including the Islamic Republic’s violent crackdown on popular protests, Tehran’s sale of drones to Russia and the acceleration of its nuclear program .
The US Navy, whose Fifth Fleet is stationed in the Gulf island nation of Bahrain, has urged Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGCN) Navy to release the tanker immediately.
The ship made an emergency call during the seizure, the US Navy said in a statement.
According to the International Maritime Organization’s shipping database, the Advantage Sweet is owned by a China-registered company called SPDBFL No One Hundred & Eighty-Seven (Tianjin) Ship Leasing Co Ltd.
(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Jonathan Saul in London; writing by Lisa Barrington, editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)
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