Iranian forces have seized another tanker in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, marking the latest in a series of seizures and attacks by Iranian forces on commercial vessels navigating the sensitive Gulf waters.
The U.S. Navy has reported that on on May 3rd, around 6:20 a.m. local time, the Panama-flagged anker Niovi, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), was intercepted and captured by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The tanker, which was not carrying any oil at the time, had departed from Dubai and was en route to the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
According to the U.S. Navy, a dozen IRGCN fast-attack craft swarmed the Niovi mid-strait, forcing the vessel to change course and head towards Iranian territorial waters near Bandar ‘Abbas,
Equasis data shows the Niovi is owned and managed by affiliates of Greece-based Smart Tankers, Inc.
TankerTrackers.com tracked the Niovi to an anchorage at the Larak/Qeshm islands off the coast of Iran.
This seizure comes just six days after the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy captured the US-bound Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet, chartered by Chevron, in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. This earlier attack followed the U.S. confiscation of an Iranian oil cargo from another tanker.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy condemned Iran’s latest actions. “Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the Navy said.
Over the past two years, Iran has harassed, attacked, or interfered with the navigation of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels, according to the Navy.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the Navy’s statement said.
This recent incident echoes a similar event last year when the U.S. attempted to confiscate an Iranian oil cargo near Greece. In response, Iran seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf of Oman. However, the Greek supreme court later ordered the return of the Iranian cargo, leading to the release of the two Greek tankers.