Iran "Confiscates" Suezmax Tanker Accused of Collision

Iran seizes tanker in international waters
US 5th Fleet identified the seized tanker as the Advantage Sweet registered in the Marshall Islands (Advantage Tankers file photo)

Published Apr 27, 2023 10:43 AM by The Maritime Executive

Iranian forces boarded a tanker outbound in the Gulf of Oman today, April 27, and have directed it into Iranian waters where Iran reports it was “confiscated” under a court order. The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command for the U.S. Fifth Fleet earlier issued a brief statement reporting that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) took control of the vessel early this afternoon local time after the vessel had transited the Strait of Hormuz. 

The U.S. later updated its report saying that it was the Iranian Navy that seized the vessel. “Initial indicators suggested that the IRGCN conducted the seizure,” CENTCOM wrote in a Tweet, saying, “However, after sending a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the situation, we have since been able to determine the IRIN (Iranian navy) conducted the seizure.”

The vessel is being identified as a Suezmax tanker Advantage Sweet, which according to Bloomberg was operating under charter to Chevron carrying a partial load of refined products loaded in Kuwait. The AIS signal is showing the vessel departed Kuwait on April 25 bound for Houston.

The Advantage Sweet is managed by a Turkish company, Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati for Advantage Tankers of Switzerland. Built in 2012, the vessel is 159,000 dwt and registered in the Marshall Islands. The IMO database shows the ultimate owners as a Chinese leasing company that is part of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. 

The 5th Fleet reported the vessel issued a distress call during the seizure. The vessel’s AIS signal has been offline since around the time of the reported seizure. Security firm Neptune P2P Group puts the vessel’s last position approximately 40 nautical miles southwest of Bandar Jask, Iran. 

Iran is justifying its actions by citing a “collision of an unknown ship with an Iranian vessel in the waters of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in the loss of two people and the injury of several other crew members of this vessel,” happening overnight. They are accusing the Advantage Sweet of being the unknown vessel and not reporting the incident and continuing on its voyage. 

“The Binder destroyer of the navy of the army, with a court order, seized the offending ship which was running away, and directed it to the coastal waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” reports the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. The Iranian government should immediately releaser the oil tanker,” CENTCOM said in its statement. “Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in the regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy.”

The U.S. is reporting that Iran has “unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East,” over the past two years. Most of the recent incidents have involved smaller vessels for alleged fuel smuggling. The last major incident with international tankers happened 11 months ago when Iran seized two Greek-controlled tankers in retaliation for one of its tankers that was being detained in Greece while the U.S. moved to seize the oil and transport it to the United States. Iran won a ruling in the Greek courts for the return of the oil and its tanker and in November 2022 released the two Greek-controlled tankers.