DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran seized a second oil tanker in a week on Wednesday in Gulf waters, the US Navy said, in the latest escalation in a series of seizures or attacks on commercial vessels in Gulf waters since 2019.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Navy seized the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker at 6:20 am (0220 GMT) as it was passing through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
The judiciary’s Mizan news agency said the public prosecutor in Tehran announced in Iran’s first response that the oil tanker had been seized by a judicial order, following a complaint from the prosecutor. and he did not mention any further details.
The incident comes after Iran on Thursday seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman called the Advantage Sweet. The Marshall Islands Flag Registry said on Tuesday that the tanker was being held by Iranian authorities at Bandar Abbas.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said it believes Iran’s seizure of the Advantage Sweet was in response to the seizure of an oil cargo by the United States on board the Marshall Islands-Suez Rajan tanker.
The Navy said the oil tanker Niofi, which was seized on Wednesday, was heading from Dubai towards the UAE port of Fujairah when Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats forced it to change course towards Iranian territorial waters.
Ship-tracking data on Refinitiv showed the Niuvi reported its location at 0231 GMT Wednesday off the coast of Oman in the Strait of Hormuz with Fujairah as its destination.
According to the International Maritime Organization’s shipping database, Niovi’s owner is Grand Financing Co., and operates Greece-based Smart Tankers, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and petroleum products pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow choke point between Iran and Oman, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.
“Continued escalating military activity and geopolitical tensions in these areas pose serious threats to commercial vessels,” the Marshall Islands Flag Registry said in a warning on Tuesday.
Associated with these threats is the potential for miscalculation or misidentification, which could lead to aggressive actions.
Since 2019, there have been a series of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters during times of tension between the United States and Iran.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have stalled since September over a host of issues, including the Islamic Republic’s violent suppression of popular protests, Tehran’s sale of drones to Russia, and the acceleration of its nuclear programme.
Writing by Lisa Barrington, Editing by Louise Heavens
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