US oil seizure prompts ‘response from Iran’

Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet, which, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data, is a Suezmax crude tanker which had been chartered by oil major Chevron and had last docked in Kuwait, sails through Bosphorus Istanbul, Turkey. — Reuters/File

As an attempt to ensure sanctions enforcement, the US has seized Iranian oil cargo triggering a similar response on Thursday from Tehran, reported Reuters, citing a maritime security firm.

As the oil markets are already affected by the Ukrainian crisis, the latest stand-off is a kind of escalation between Iran and the US as Washington after years of sanctions pressure by the US over its nuclear program.

Tehran has been resisting sanctions and its oil exports have witnessed a surge.

According to Tehran, its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes while Washington sees otherwise, saying it’s intended to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Maritime security company Ambrey said that “the US confiscation took place at least five days before Iran’s action on Thursday”.

It said in an advisory to clients that “Ambrey has assessed the seizure by the Iranian Navy to be in response to the US action”.

“Both tankers were Suezmax-sized. Iran has previously responded tit-for-tat following seizures of Iranian oil cargo,” it said.

Reuters, citing sources reported that “Washington took control of the oil cargo aboard the Marshall Islands tanker Suez Rajan after securing an earlier court order. The tanker’s last reported position was near southern Africa on April 22, ship tracking data showed”.

As per the US Navy, Iran took control of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday — the recent confiscation by Tehran on commercial vessels in sensitive Gulf waters, a sea lane from where millions of barrels of oil pass daily.

The Iranian state media noted Friday: “The tanker ignored radio calls for eight hours following a collision with an Iranian boat, which left several crewmen injured and three missing.”

“Before using force, we tried to call the vessel …to stop but they did not cooperate,” Iranian deputy navy commander Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajodini told the state media.

US spokesperson said Friday: “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was aware of the Gulf of Oman seizure and reaffirmed support for international maritime law.”

In 2022, Washington attempted to take control of a cargo ship of Iranian oil near Greece, sparking a response to seize two Greek oil tankers in the Gulf.

Later on the orders of the Supreme Court of Greece, the oil cargo was returned to Iran after which Tehran also released the two seized tankers.

As matters are towards the escalators ladder, 12 US senators Thursday urged US President Joe Biden to set aside the Treasury Department policy hurdles preventing the Department of Homeland Security from taking control of Iranian oil shipments for more than a year.

In a similar attempt in 2020, Washington seized four cargoes of Iranian fuel aboard foreign ships en route to Venezuela and directed them with unidentified foreign collaborators onto two other ships which then went to the US.

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