The US Navy announced Thursday that Iranian commandos have seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman off Iran's coast. The statement emphasized that the seizure happened in international waters.
The US statement identified the ship as the Advantage Sweet Suezmax crude tanker chartered by Chevron to move product from Kuwait to Houston. The US administration is calling on Iran's government to immediately release the oil tanker, according to Bloomberg.
"Iran's continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy," the US Navy said. The statement further reviewed that in two years, the Islamic Republic has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels in the region.
Iran's state television IRIB News confirmed Iranian possession of the tanker. Iran's military is claiming the vessel collided with an Iranian boat and then tried to flee. "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 Iranian military said. "Two members of the boat’s crew are missing and several were injured due to the collision of the ship with the boat," it claimed.
The vessel's Turkey-based management company said as quoted in Reuters, "The safety and welfare of our valued crew members is our No. 1 priority," adding that: "Similar experiences show that crew members of vessels taken under such circumstances are in no danger."
Iran especially since 2019, a year after the Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA nuclear deal brokered under Obama, increased its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz narrow waterway by force - vital to global trade and oil transit - if it’s prevented from using it.
The past few years have witnessed the US ramp up its naval presence in the Gulf region, based out of Bahrain where the 5th Fleet is headquartered, and this has served to increase tense encounters between IRGC operatives and US forces.
so Iran has beef with Turkish-operated, Marshall Islands-flagged suezmax tanker Advantage Sweet (IMO 9587192) seized in Gulf of Oman earlier today (last AIS signal 0915GMT). Laden with crude loaded in Kuwait. Iran MO normally is tit-for-tat so the story behind this will emerge pic.twitter.com/1hw1Z1VBsA— Michelle Wiese Bockmann (@Michellewb_) April 27, 2023
For example the past half-year has seen the Iranians briefly capture and detain high-tech US navy sea drones. But these all have been released by the Iranians after the US Navy mobilizes assets in threat of IRGC vessels.
The past year has seen the near total collapse of negotiations toward restoring the nuclear deal. Many analysts feared that a stalled deal would only cause the Iranians to resort to military tactics in order to build leverage toward forcing a US response, and that may be precisely what we are seeing now with this latest tanker seizure.