Iran seizes its second oil tanker in a week: US Navy reveals footage of Tehran’s ships surrounding ship in Strait of Hormuz
- The US Navy 5th Fleet identified the ship as Niovi under the Panama flag
Iran seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, the second capture by Tehran in recent days, the US Navy said.
The Bahrain-based Navy’s 5th Fleet identified the ship as the Niovi. It said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards seized the ship at 6 a.m. local time.
The navy published photos of a dozen Guardia ships surrounding the tanker. Those ships “forced the oil tanker to change course and head for Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran,” the navy said.
“Iran’s actions violate international law and disrupt regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran’s continued harassment of ships and interference with navigation rights in regional waters is unjustified, irresponsible and a current threat to maritime security and the global economy.”
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the Guard, reported that the paramilitary force had seized a tanker it described as an “offender,” without elaborating further.
This still image from the video released by the US Navy shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Niovi surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards ships in the Strait of Hormuz Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Ship records show that the Niovi is operated by Smart Tankers of Piraeus, Greece.
A woman who answered the phone at the company immediately declined to comment on the seizure.
The Niovi was en route from Dubai to the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when it was forced to change course into Iranian territorial waters.
The ship’s last recorded position was at 02:31 off the coast of Oman in the Strait of Hormuz with destination Fujairah, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.
About a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and Oman.
Last week, Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker carrying crude oil for Chevron amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US over its nuclear program.
The Advantage Sweet had 23 Indians and a Russian on board.
Wednesday’s seizure by Iran was the latest in a string of ship seizures and explosions in the region.
The incidents began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, leading Tehran to drastically limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Also, the US Navy has blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on ships that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-affiliated oil tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.
Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West is playing out in the region’s unstable waters. Since 2019, the seizures of Iranian tankers are part of it. The last major seizure in recent days was when Iran seized two Greek tankers in May and held them until November.
The ship sent out a distress signal at 1:15 p.m., officials said, as it passed into international waters just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat. The boat left Kuwait on Monday and sailed through the Persian Gulf the day before.