According to the U.S. Navy spokesperson, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ forcibly seized’ a commercial vessel in the Gulf’s international waters.
The ship was most probably engaged in smuggling; the spokesperson stated, a day after the U.S. Navy had accused Iran of two more such attempts off the coast of Oman.
U.S. Fifth Fleet Spokesperson Commander Tim Hawkins said that the U.S. Navy had kept a close eye on the situation and did not take any further action.
Ambrey, the British Maritime Security Company, stated that Iran tried to seize a small tanker sailing under the Tanzanian Flag, approximately 59 nautical miles northeast of Saudi Arabia’s port city of Dammam.
The company also said Iran regularly intercepts tankers it suspects of smuggling oil.
Per Analytics firm Vortexa, about a fifth of the world’s supply of crude oil and oil products are shipped via the Hormuz Strait, an important maritime chokepoint between Iran and Oman.
The U.S. Navy mentioned on Wednesday that it had intervened to stop Iran from confiscating two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman in a series of attacks on ships in the region since 2019, including one instance where the Iranians also fired shots.
In both cases, the Iranian forces fled after a U.S. Destroyer appeared on the scene, the U.S. Central Command reported.
In its defence, Iran’s maritime services said that one of the two tankers, the Richmond-Voyager, sailing under the flag of the Bahamas and managed by the U.S oil major Chevron, was involved in a collision with an Iranian vessel, an incident that seriously injured the latter’s five crew, per the State News Agency IRNA.
It also reported that the collision happened on Thursday, which led to the flooding and damage of the Iranian vessel.
IRNA also said that the Richmond Voyager went on its way without heeding any international maritime rules and regulations, adding that a court order was issued for Iran’s Navy to confiscate the tanker.
The News Agency also mentioned that the tanker also changed its course before entering Oman’s territorial waters.
Iran has mentioned that the matter has been referred to its ‘friendly’ Oman, which has mediated talks between Iran and the U.S.
U.S. Navy spokesperson firmly stated that the U.S. Naval Forces are vigilant and always ready to protect the navigational rights of lawful maritime traffic in the Middle East’s critical waters.
Iran had seized two more tankers in May, including the Advantage Sweet, sailing under the Marshall Islands flag and chartered by Chevron.
Since 2021 “Iran has harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels”, the U.S. Navy added.
Iran was also accused of launching a drone attack against a tanker owned by Israel in 2022.
Such incidents have risen since 2018, when the then U.S President Donald Trump turned down the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, leading to heightening US-Iran tensions.
Diplomatic talks to improve relations are stalled but have recently resumed, with the intermediary being the Sultanate of Oman.
Given the present circumstances between the two countries, whether these attempts will be fruitful or not remains uncertain.
References: thedefensepost, dtnext
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