The Iranian Navy captured a US-bound oil tanker in the Sea of Oman after it collided with an Iranian vessel and tried to flee in violation of maritime regulations.
This Thursday, Iran’s Navy issued a statement and said that it had seized a Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman after the US-bound vessel hit an Iranian boat, injuring several crewmen, and while it was trying to flee in violation of international rules. “Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker was seized by the Iranian army’s naval force in the Persian Gulf after it collided with an Iranian boat in the Gulf of Oman and tried to flee,” the army statement said on Thursday, adding that “two members of the boat’s crew are missing and several were injured due to the collision of the ship with the boat”.
According to the latest satellite tracking data for the vessel from MarineTraffic.com, the tanker was still in the Gulf of Oman just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat, as of Thursday afternoon. The US-bound ship had just come from Kuwait and listed its destination as Houston, Texas in the United States before it was intercepted by Bayandor corvette of the Iranian Navy in compliance with a confiscation order issued by judicial authorities. Good to mention that the waters where the oil tanker was seized, near the Strait of Hormuz, are a chokepoint for at least a third of the world’s seaborne oil.
According to international maritime law, in such cases when a vessel hits another and causes injuries, the former is responsible for the incident and is obliged to rush to the help of the crew of the latter and provide medical services to the injured.
US Navy recounts a different story
Narrating the story in its own perspective, the US Navy even accused Iran of illegally seizing the oil tanker in international waters. In a statement issued Wednesday, the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet from the US Navy had said that Iranian naval forces “seized the Advantage Sweet oil tanker while it had been transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman”.
Claiming that in the past two years, Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East, the US Navy also urger Iran of an “immediate release” of the oil tanker, denouncing Iran’s “continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters”.
It was first the US that started the dangerous game
Even as Washington accuses Iran of illegally seizing its vessel, it is worth mentioning here that a few days before Iran captured the US-bound oil tanker, American Navy officials had ordered a tanker of Iranian crude oil to redirect towards the US.
According to the words of three Navy officials briefed on the situation, the US had intervened to summon a ship loaded with Iranian crude, originally destined for China, as Washington looks to step up enforcement of sanctions on Tehran. The people said the US Department of Justice seized the tanker, the Suez Rajan, under a court order with co-operation from at least one company involved with the vessel.
The US Navy has a history of sending escalating messages to Iran by allowing its vessels to enter the Persian Gulf waters. Earlier this month, for example, the US Navy said the nuclear-powered submarine Florida, equipped with a guided missile system, was operating in the Middle East in support of its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain. A week later, the Iranian navy said in a statement that it identified and warned off a US reconnaissance plane that was flying above the waters of the Persian Gulf.
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