Units of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, the second-such capture of a vessel in the strategic waterway in just a week. The Islamic Republic has conducted a series of illegal seizures or attacks on commercial vessels in and around the Persian Gulf since 2019.
“On May 3 at approximately 6:20 a.m. local time, Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) while transiting the Strait of Hormuz,” the United States Naval Forces Central Command announced on Wednesday.
The Strait is among the world’s most important oil chokepoints, and oil tanks that transit the strait carry approximately 17 million barrels of oil each day – about 20 to 30 percent of the world’s total consumption.
The oil tanker had reportedly 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, CENTCOM added.
The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, did not receive a distress call from the Niovi, however, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operating in the area recorded footage of the IRGCN craft swarming the tanker. The drone was reportedly on a routine patrol.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency acknowledged the Guard seized the vessel, the Associated Press reported, while Tehran’s prosecutor announced the oil tanker was seized on a judicial order following a complaint by a plaintiff, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency stated.
The Niovi is managed by Smart Tankers of Piraeus, Greece, and is reportedly owned by the Grand Financing Company.
Second Seizure in a Week
Wednesday’s incident follows another that occurred six days ago when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet while it transited international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The vessel’s destination was listed as the U.S. Gulf of Mexico port of Houston, ship tracking data showed.
Last week, Iran’s state television aired footage of masked Iranian Navy commandos conducting the helicopter-borne raid to seize the U.S.-bound vessel. Tehran announced the tanker was seized after it ran into another Iranian vessel, but has provided no evidence to support the claim.
CENTCOM has noted that Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. In recent 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,” CENTCOM added.
It was also just last month that the U.S. Navy sailed a drone ship through the Strait of Hormuz for the first time. The passage of the MAST-13 drone, which was escorted by a pair of United States Coast Guard cutters, did catch the attention of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. However, it took place without incident.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.