Video: Iran Says It “Impounded” Second Crude Oil Tanker Today
Iranian forces seized a second crude oil tanker in a week in the area around the Strait of Hormuz according to a report released by the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command U.S. 5th Fleet. Iranian news agency quickly confirmed today's action saying the vessel was being “impounded” due to an unspecified legal claim.
The crude oil tanker Niovi (306,998 dwt) was inbound and not loaded, unlike last week’s incident when Iran’s Navy seized a fully loaded tanker outbound for the United States. Tracking data shows the 18-year-old vessel, registered in Panama, had come from India at the end of March and AP is citing data from Refinitiv saying the vessel had been undergoing repairs in Dubai. The tanker departed Dubai on May 2 bound for Fujairah in the UAE.
On May 3 at approximately 6:20 a.m. local time, Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) while transiting the Strait of Hormuz.— U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) May 3, 2023
See video & link to statement below ??https://t.co/sdyxYmAQtO pic.twitter.com/0QcHUwM1Ks
The U.S. Navy released footage showing a dozen fast-attack craft operated by Iran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy swarming the vessel while it was transiting the strait at approximately 0620 local time. The U.S. Navy said its drone was on a routine patrol capturing images of the assault on the tanker.
Initially, the U.S. Navy reported that the IRGCN had forced the vessel to reverse course and head toward Iranian waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran. TankerTrackers.com later Tweeted that they had located the Niovi in the anchorage of Larak/Qeshm Islands.
The tanker is owned by a leasing company Grand Financing and managed by Smart Tankers of Greece. The ship reportedly has an international crew of 30 aboard with a Greek captain.
Niovi was seen being redirected into Iranian waters (US Navy)
The U.S. Navy repeated its earlier statement saying, “Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. Over the past two years, Iran has harassed, attacked, or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels.”
Today’s seizure came just six days after the Iranian Navy took control of another tanker the Advantage Sweet. Iranian media is repeating claims that the Advantage Sweet collided with an Iranian fishing boat in the Persian Gulf and failed to stop to provide assistance. They contend that the crew of the fishing boat sustained injuries and that two people are missing after the collision.
After analyzing the events and the Niovi's suspected participation in handling Iranian oil, TankerTrackers.com is casting doubt on the events. "Given the tanker's history of receiving Iranian oil during the sanctions era as well as being currently empty of cargo, we believe today's actions were entirely staged," they wrote in a Twitter posting.
The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, quickly began running reports today saying the Niovi was “impounded” by prosecutors on a court order following an unspecified complaint by a “plaintiff.” Iranian news agencies are saying the tanker “apparently violated maritime law.”
Speaking to the media yesterday, the FARS news agency reports the Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kana'ani told reporters that “Tehran will not hesitate to take all necessary measures to defend its national interests and the rights of its citizens.” He was responding to questions citing media reports that Iran seized the Advantage Sweet in retaliation for the U.S. seizure of a shipment of Iranian oil.
Tensions have been running high in the region after last week’s seizure. Greece’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs acknowledged to the Associated Press that it had recently sent a warning to Greek ships in the Middle East to be on alert when going through the Persian Gulf. Bloomberg reports that the benchmark price of crude oil briefly leveled off on world markets after the news of the latest seizure but was again declining later in the day on the markets in London.
The Advantage Sweet remains under Iranian control at the port of Bandar Abbas. Advantage Tankers, which manages the vessel, confirmed in a statement that a representative had been able to board the vessel on April 30 to check on the welfare of the crew.