Iranian state media reported that the country’s navy seized an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. The tanker was previously involved in a dispute between Iran and the United States and was boarded by men in military uniforms, according to reports.
According to reports from the Iranian news agencies Tasnim and IRNA, the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran claimed to have taken control of a US oil tanker in the Oman Sea with a legal order. The announcement was made through the Tasnim agency’s Telegram channel, which is associated with the Revolutionary Guard.
Iran was immediately suspected as the country involved with the ship, previously named Suez Rajan. The dispute between the ship and the U.S. Justice Department lasted for a year and resulted in the seizure of 1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil. According to Mehr, a news agency from Iran, the navy referred to Thursday’s seizure as “retaliation” for the prior U.S. intervention with the tanker.
The most massive attack to date using drones and missiles. launched late Tuesday.
The U.S. military’s Central Command reported that a total of 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile were launched by the Iranian-supported Houthis in one attack. However, all of them were effectively intercepted and destroyed.
On Wednesday, Houthis’ military representative Yahya Saree announced that the group launched numerous missiles and drones at a U.S. vessel that was assisting Israel during their conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
The recent assaults on ships have heightened the possibility of counterattacks from the U.S. and its allies who are currently monitoring the important waterway. This concern has been amplified by a vote from the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemning the Houthis, as well as warnings from American and British officials about potential repercussions for these attacks.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a division of the British military, reported on Thursday that an incident occurred in the early hours involving armed individuals boarding a tanker in the waters between Oman and Iran. This area is a busy route for ships entering and exiting the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage in the Persian Gulf that sees a significant amount of global oil trade.
The military organization in charge of the U.K. received a report from the ship’s security manager stating that they heard unidentified voices over the phone while with the ship’s captain. They were unable to reach the ship and the individuals who boarded the vessel were wearing black military-style uniforms and black masks.
Ambrey, a private security company, reported that a group of four to five individuals carrying weapons had boarded the vessel known as the St. Nikolas. The company stated that the men had concealed the surveillance cameras upon boarding.
The tanker was located near Basra, Iraq, while it was being loaded with crude oil intended for Aliaga, Turkey. The oil was being transported for the Turkish refinery company Tupras.
The ship, formerly known as the Suez Rajan, was called St. Nikolas and connected to the Greek shipping company Empire Navigation. In a message to the AP, Empire Navigation, based in Athens, admitted losing communication with the ship, which has 18 Filipino crew members and one Greek crew member. The company did not give further details.
In February 2022, the Suez Rajan garnered attention due to suspicions raised by the organization United Against Nuclear Iran that the tanker was transporting oil from Iran’s Khargh Island, which serves as their primary oil distribution terminal in the Persian Gulf. Analysis of satellite images and shipping records by the AP at that time provided evidence to support this claim.
The ship stayed in the South China Sea near the northeast coast of Singapore for months before unexpectedly setting sail for the coast of Texas without any clarification. In August, the ship transferred its cargo to another tanker, which then released it in Houston as per a directive from the Justice Department.
In September, Empire Navigation admitted to illegally transporting Iranian crude oil, which violated sanctions. They also agreed to pay a $2.4 million penalty for their involvement with the tanker in question.
The 5th Fleet of the U.S. Navy, responsible for monitoring the Middle East, has yet to comment on the incident. Before Tasnim’s report, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA had briefly mentioned the boarding, but provided no further details. The Iranian mission to the United Nations has also not commented on the issue.
In 2022, the ship, formerly known as Suez Rajan, set sail for America from Iran.
captured two ships in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz
In July, the leader of the naval division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned of potential retaliation against any vessel carrying cargo for Chevron Corp, a major American oil company. This was in response to recent seizures of ships, with reports suggesting that the fate of the cargo was the main factor.
The disintegration of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Iran has seized ships and launched attacks on shipping in the waters near the strait, according to the Navy. There have also been tense encounters between Iran and the Navy in this area, but recent focus has shifted to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.
Since 2019, the United States and its allies have been confiscating Iranian oil shipments. This has resulted in a string of attributed attacks in the Middle East by the Islamic Republic, as well as the seizure of ships by Iranian military and paramilitary forces, posing a threat to global shipping.
The Houthis claim that their assaults are intended to stop the distress of Palestinians in Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, the insurgents have been increasingly focusing on ships that have minimal or no connection to Israel.
On Thursday, the AP examined satellite tracking information and determined that an Iranian cargo ship believed to be used for espionage in the Red Sea had departed from the area. The data indicated that the Behshad had traveled through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and entered the Gulf of Aden.
In 2021, the Behshad has been located in the Red Sea near the Dahlak archipelago of Eritrea. This move occurred after Iran relocated the Saviz, a potential spy base in the Red Sea that was reportedly damaged in an attack believed to be carried out by Israel as part of a larger conflict involving ship attacks in the area.