Iran seizes two foreign-flagged merchant ships in one week

A screenshot of a video showing fast attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy swarming the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Niovi as it transits the Strait of Hormuz, May 3, 2023. (Photo: US Navy)

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet has reported that Iran has seized a foreign-flagged commercial ship for the second time in one week.

On Wednesday, May 3, at approximately 06:20 local time, the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Niovi was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) while transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

The oil tanker departed Dubai and was transiting from the Arabian Gulf toward the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when a dozen IRGCN fast attack craft swarmed the vessel in the middle of the strait. The IRGCN subsequently forced the oil tanker to reverse course and head toward Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran.

A previous incident occurred six days prior when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet while it transited international waters in the Gulf of Oman.

The US Navy said 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.

The navy added that 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.”

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