Iran seizes merchant tankers in Gulf, US Navy says Ship’s crew


LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “forcibly seized” a merchant ship in international waters in the Gulf on Thursday and the ship may be involved in smuggling, a US Navy spokesman said.

The US Navy has been monitoring the situation and decided not to take any further action, said US 5th Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins.

British maritime security firm Ambrey said it was aware of the attempted seizure of a small Tanzanian-flagged tanker by Iranian forces some 59 nautical miles northeast of the Saudi Arabian port city of Dammam.

“Iran regularly intercepts smaller tankers it suspects of smuggling oil,” the company added in a statement.

About a fifth of the world’s supply of crude oil and oil products flows by sea through the Strait of Hormuz, a bottleneck between Iran and Oman, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.

The US Navy said on Wednesday it had intervened to prevent Iran from seizing two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman, in the latest in a string of attacks on ships in the region since 2019.

“US forces remain vigilant and ready to protect the navigational rights of legitimate maritime traffic in critical Middle East waters,” Hawkins said.

Iran said Thursday it had a court order to seize one of the tankers sailing in Gulf waters on Wednesday after it collided with an Iranian ship. The vessel, the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager, was managed by US oil giant Chevron.

Tehran seized two more tankers in May, including those flying the Marshall Islands flag advantage sweetchartered by Chevron.

Since 2021, “Iran has harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 international-flagged merchant vessels,” the US Navy said this week.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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