Iran’s navy seizes a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman amid wider tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday amid broader tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, the latest seizure of a vessel of water essential for the global energy supply.
The Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet identified the ship as the Advantage Sweet. Satellite tracking data for the ship from MarineTraffic.com showed it in the Gulf of Oman just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Thursday afternoon. It had just arrived from Kuwait and its destination was listed as Houston, Texas.
The Advantage Sweet issued a distress call at 1:15 p.m. while in international waters as Iran seized the ship, the Navy said.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disrupt regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran must release the oil tanker immediately.”
The Navy initially said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the vessel, but an American naval aircraft later confirmed the Iranian navy had captured the ship, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins told The Associated Press.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the seizure occurred after “an unknown ship collided with an Iranian vessel last night in the Persian Gulf, causing the loss and injury of several Iranian crew members.” It did not identify the other ship involved in the alleged collision.
Advantage Sweet was in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, but its track did not show its usual behavior as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of all oil traded passes. Iran made allegations of other seizures that later collapsed as it became clear that Tehran was trying to use the seizure as a bargaining chip with foreign countries.
Iran’s “harassing activity within the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is consistent with an established pattern of behavior that has seen Iran target vessels as a result of ongoing disputes,” the maritime said. security firm Dryad Global.
The 5th Fleet said the Iranian seizure was at least the fifth commercial vessel seized by Tehran in the last two years.
“Iran’s continued harassment of maritime vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters is a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it added.
The ship’s manager, a Turkish firm, did not respond to requests for comment. Its listed owner appears to be a Chinese company.
Thursday’s Iranian seizure is the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions roiling the region.
Also, the US Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a deadly drone attack on an oil tanker that linked to Israel killing two European crew members in 2021.
Tehran has denied carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the volatile waters of the region. Iranian tanker seizures have been part of it since 2019. The last major seizure came when Iran seized two Greek tankers in May and held them until November.
Meanwhile, talks on Iran’s botched nuclear deal have stalled for a year. Since the deal collapsed, Iran has been operating advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that Iran has enriched enough to 60% purity – a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. That would be enough for Iran to develop some nuclear weapons if it chose to do so.