Iran has seized a second oil tanker in the Gulf in just one week, according to the US Navy. This marks the latest escalation in a string of seizures and attacks on commercial vessels in the Gulf since 2019. The Panama-flagged oil tanker, Niovi, was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) while passing through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. The Niovi had been travelling from Dubai towards the UAE’s Fujairah port when it was forced to change course towards Iranian territorial waters.
The seizure of the Niovi comes shortly after the seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman called the Advantage Sweet. The tanker is currently being held by Iranian authorities in Bandar Abbas. Maritime security firm Ambrey believes the Advantage Sweet’s seizure by Iran was in response to a recent seizure via a court order by the United States of an oil cargo aboard the Marshall Islands tanker, Suez Rajan.
According to the International Maritime Organization shipping database, the Niovi’s owner is Grand Financing Co and the ship is managed by Greece-based Smart Tankers, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow chokepoint between Iran and Oman.
Since 2019, there have been a series of attacks on shipping in the Gulf waters during times of tension between the US and Iran. “Heightened military activity and geopolitical tensions in these regions continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels,” the Marshall Islands flag registry said in an advisory on Tuesday. “Associated with these threats is the potential for miscalculation or misidentification, which could lead to aggressive actions.”
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Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers have stalled since September due to a range of issues. These include Iran’s violent crackdown on popular protests, Tehran’s sale of drones to Russia and acceleration of its nuclear program.
The escalation in seizures and attacks on commercial vessels in Gulf waters highlights the importance of maritime security in the region. Ship owners and operators must remain vigilant in the face of potential threats, including miscalculations or misidentifications by naval forces.
It is crucial for governments and international organizations to work together to ensure the safe passage of vessels in Gulf waters. Heightened military activity and geopolitical tensions only increase the risk of incidents, and there must be a concerted effort to reduce tensions and promote peaceful dialogue.
In the meantime, ship owners and operators can take steps to mitigate risk and improve their security posture. This may include conducting regular security assessments, implementing security protocols and training crews on how to respond to potential threats. By working together, we can ensure the safe passage of vessels and protect the lives and livelihoods of those who rely on them.