05 December 2023
Forces of Iran have seized 2 oil tankers. The one in the Strait of Hormuz, the second such incident in less than a week to target the US relationships with Greece.
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The US Navy said that the Panama-flagged VLCC Niovi was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) around 6.20 hrs local time while transiting from the Arabian Gulf toward the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
Footage released by the US Naval Forces Central Command 5th Fleet showed eleven small boats approaching the vessel forcing it to change course and sail for Iranian waters. The tanker had last called Port Rashid’s Drydocks World and had an estimated freeboard of 21.25 m.
Maritime security consultants Ambrey said the ship was heading southbound in Omani territorial waters, about 47 nautical miles south of Bandar Abbas in Iran – observing the AIS signal going offline at 02.31 UTC on May 3.
Note that the 2005-built oil tanker ship is owned by Grand Financing and managed by Smart Tankers, both Piraeus-based. TankerTrackers.com said it has located the Niovi in the anchorage of Larak/Qeshm islands.
Earlier in the Week
A previous incident occurred six days ago when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy seized Marshall Islands-flagged suezmax tanker Advantage Sweet. Greek authorities had issued a warning, that Greek shipping was at an increased risk from Iran after the detention of the Suez Rajan.
“Due to recent Iranian threats of possible retaliation against Greek shipping, we strongly recommend the navigation in the above area as well as in the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman to be carried out, if possible, outside the waters under Iran’s jurisdiction, and under increased caution when sailing near the above areas,”Shipping Ministry of Greece (April 20th)
Maritime security company Ambrey said following the initial warning by Greece’s shipping ministry, it has observed the exodus of an unusually high number of Greek-flagged vessels from the Gulf region.
“the risk to merchant shipping was not limited to the flag-state but to the affiliations with Greece and the U.S.”Ambrey Limited
Moments before the seizure, Advantage Sweet issued a distress call. When seized by the Iranian forces, the vessel transited international waters in the Gulf of Oman in retaliation for a Greek-managed tanker Suez Rajan being taken by US authorities, particularly Washington for carrying Iranian oil.
Iranian media claimed a regular Iranian Navy corvette seized the tanker and directed it to Iranian coastal waters, claiming the tanker had collided with an unidentified Iranian boat.
“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.”
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,”US Naval Forces Central Command
The IMO Legal Committee, LEG 110, recently discussed the alarming rise of ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean and the dangers posed by tankers in the “dark fleet.” The practice of ship-to-ship transfers has caused widespread concern for the global liability and compensation regime, as it undermines the regulations outlined in MARPOL.