Iranian navy seizes oil tanker near Oman headed for Houston – KESQ

Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s navy captured a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman en route to the United States amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, the most recent capture recent development in a crucial waterway for global energy. supplies.

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in the Middle East identified the vessel as the Advantage Sweet. Satellite tracking data for the vessel from showed it in the Gulf of Oman, just north of the Omani capital Muscat, on Thursday afternoon. She had just arrived from Kuwait and the indicated destination of hers was Houston.

The Advantage Sweet issued a distress call at 1:15 p.m. while in international waters when Iran seized the vessel, the Navy said.

“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and detrimental to regional security and stability,” the Fifth Fleet said in a statement. “Iran should immediately release the tanker.”

The Navy initially said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards seized the ship, but a US naval plane later confirmed Iran’s Navy captured the ship, Fifth Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins to The Associated Press.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the seizure came after an “unknown ship collided with an Iranian ship last night in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and injure themselves.” It did not identify the other ship involved in the alleged collision.

The Advantage Sweet had been in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, but its trajectory showed no unusual behavior as it transited the Strait of Hormuz, where a fifth of all traded oil passes. Iran has made allegations in other seizures that later fell apart when it became clear that Tehran was trying to use the seizure as a chip to negotiate with foreign nations.

Iran’s “harassment activity in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman is commensurate with an established pattern of behavior that has seen Iran target vessels as a result of ongoing disputes,” maritime security firm Dryad Global said.

The Fifth Fleet said the Iranian seizure was at least the fifth commercial vessel taken by Tehran in the past two years.

“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigation rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it added.

US Army General Erik Kurilla, the top US commander for the Middle East, said in a statement that the “illegal seizure” of the tanker was “another in a continuing series of violations by Iran.” of the rules-based international order.

The ship’s manager, a Turkish company called Advantage Tankers, issued a statement acknowledging that the Advantage Sweet was “being escorted by the Iranian navy to a port on the basis of an international dispute.” All 24 members of the ship’s crew are Indian.

“The safety and well-being of our valued crew members is our number one priority,” the firm said. “Similar experiences show that crew members of ships captured in such circumstances are not in danger.”

The owner of the listed ship appeared to be a Chinese company.

Clear information from data firm Refinitiv showed that Advantage Sweet was transporting Kuwaiti crude oil for US energy firm Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California. Chevron said it was “aware of the situation.”

“We are in contact with the operator of the vessel in hopes of resolving this situation as soon as possible,” Chevron spokeswoman Christine Dobbyn said in a statement.

Thursday’s seizure by Iran was the latest in a series of ship seizures and explosions that rocked the region.

The incidents began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, in which Tehran sharply limited its uranium enrichment in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

Also, The US Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks against ships that damaged oil tankers in well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israel-linked tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.

Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a broader shadow war between Iran and the West has been playing out in the volatile waters of the region. Seizures of Iranian tankers have been a part of this since 2019. The latest major seizure occurred when Iran seized two Greek tankers in May and kept them until November.

In the Middle East, Iranian-backed militias in Syria have carried out attacks against US forces, including one that killed a contractor in March. The United States responded with air strikes..

Meanwhile, talks on the Iran nuclear deal have been stalled for a year. Since the collapse of the deal, Iran operates advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing reserve of enriched uranium. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that Iran has sufficiently enriched to 60% purity, a short technical step from 90% weapons-grade levels. That would be enough for Iran. make various nuclear weapons if you choose to do so.


Associated Press writer Robert Badendieck in Istanbul contributed to this report.


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