Iran seizes oil tanker ‘trying to flee’ in Gulf waters

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The MarineTraffic tracking website last showed the Advantage Sweet, owned by Advantage Tankers, off the coast of Oman [File: Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

Tehran says its navy seized the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker after it hit an Iranian boat.

Iran’s army has said it seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman after it collided with an Iranian boat, injuring several crewmen, state media reported.

“A Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker was seized by the Iranian army’s naval force in the Persian Gulf after it collided with an Iranian boat in the Gulf of Oman and tried to flee,” the army statement said on Thursday.

“Two members of the boat’s crew are missing and several were injured due to the collision of the ship with the boat.”

Earlier, the US Navy said Iranian forces seized a tanker in the Gulf of Oman in international waters.

Satellite tracking data for the vessel from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker in the Gulf of Oman just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Thursday afternoon.

It had just come from Kuwait and listed its destination as Houston, Texas in the United States.

The waters where the US-bound ship was seized, near the Strait of Hormuz, are a chokepoint for at least a third of the world’s seaborne oil.

In a statement issued earlier, the US Navy had said Iranian naval forces had seized the Advantage Sweet oil tanker while it had been “transiting international waters” in the Gulf of Oman.

“The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker,” the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet added, denouncing Iran’s “continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters”.

Iran and the US have traded barbs in recent years over a spate of incidents in the sensitive waters of the Gulf.

The seizure on Thursday is the latest incident in the Strait of Hormuz where ships have been mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized.

“In the past two years, Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East”, the US Navy said.

The seizure comes after the US, United Kingdom and European Union toughened sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps on Monday, citing alleged human rights violations by Tehran.

The Western measures added to those already taken for Tehran’s hardline response to protests that rocked Iran since the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.

Iran later announced countermeasures, including financial sanctions and entry bans, targeting EU and UK individuals and entities for “imposing and exacerbating cruel sanctions”.

Tensions have escalated since 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran’s nuclear programme, and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

In July 2019, the Revolutionary Guard seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the same waterway for allegedly ramming a fishing boat, and released it two months later.

In 2021, Iran released a South Korean oil tanker it had held for months amid a dispute about billions of dollars seized by Seoul.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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