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Iran seizes oil tanker in Gulf of Oman, says US

April 27, 2023

The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was seized in the Gulf of Oman while it was in transit, according to the US Navy's Middle East-based 5th Fleet.

A file photo of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman
The incident is the latest in a series of several seizures of commercial vessels in Gulf waters in the past couple of yearsImage: Jon Gambrell/AP/picture alliance

The US Navy said on Thursday that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. 

"Iran's actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability," the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet said in a statement. "Iran should immediately release the oil tanker."

Iranian state media reported that the tanker collided with an Iranian boat and injured several crew members.

"Two members of the boat's crew are missing and several were injured due to the collision of the ship with the boat," an army statement said.

"The unknown vessel, while acting in violation of international regulations to help the vessel and the injured, attempted to escape from the Persian Gulf," it added.

The statement did not identify the Iranian boat involved in the alleged collision.

The incident came days after the US, Britain and the European Union toughened sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard Corps over human rights violations.

What do we know about the oil tanker?

The US Navy said the vessel was transiting the vital seaway. It had reportedly come from Kuwait and listed its destination as Houston, Texas.

The Suezmax oil tanker, built in 2012, issued a distress call during the seizure at around 1 p.m. local time (1000 UTC/GMT), the Navy said.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) shipping database, a China-registered company owns the vessel.

The tanker is "being escorted by the Iranian navy to a port on the basis of an international dispute," said Advantage Tankers, the Turkey-based company which manages the vessel.

"The safety and welfare of our valued crew members is our No. 1 priority," the firm added.

Incidents in the Gulf of Oman

The US Navy said Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels in the Middle East in the past two years. Iranian tanker seizures have been a part of wider tensions between Iran and the West since 2019.

A map illustrating the location of the Strait of Hormuz
The Gulf of Oman is connected with the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz

In November, Tehran released two Greek-flagged tankers, which it had seized in the Gulf in May in retaliation over the US confiscation of a tanker carrying Iranian oil off Greece.

In 2019, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, claiming it had rammed a fishing boat. The ship was released two months later.

fb/wd (AP. Reuters)