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Iran seizes Suezmax tanker in Gulf of Oman

Advantage Tankers Advantage Sweet at sea
A US-bound oil tanker has been detained by the Iranian navy in the latest incident to hit international shipping operating in the Middle East.

“On April 27 at approximately 1.15pm local time, Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet was seized by the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy while transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The oil tanker issued a distress call during the seizure. US 5th Fleet is monitoring the situation,” said a statement issued yesterday by US Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs.

It said Iran’s actions were contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability and that the Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker.

“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy. In the past two years, Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East,” it said.

News reports said the Suezmax crude tanker had been chartered by US oil major Chevron and had last docked in Kuwait. It was reportedly bound for Houston, Texas, with 750,000 barrels of crude on board.

Official Iranian news agency IRNA said Iran’s naval forces had seized “an offending Marshal Islands-flagged ship in the Sea of Oman after it collided with an Iranian boat and attempted to flee the scene.”

The news agency said on Thursday that the seizure came after an unknown tanker collided with an Iranian vessel late on Wednesday in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and get injured, quoting sources from Iran’s Army.

Iranian naval forces later intercepted the vessel in the Sea of Oman “and directed it toward Iran’s coastal waters.”

“The illegal seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman by the Iranian Navy is another in a continuing series of violations [by] Iran of the international rules-based order. This kind of harassing activity is commensurate with an established pattern of Iranian behaviour that places the security and stability of the Middle East at risk,” said General Michael Kurilla, Commander of US Central Command.

Reuters said that according to the International Maritime Organisation shipping database, the Advantage Sweet is owned by a China-registered company called SPDBFL No One Hundred & Eighty-Seven (Tianjin) Ship Leasing Co Ltd.

The Equasis database said the vessel’s ship manager was Turkey-based Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati AS.