Satellite Images Show Tankers Seized By Iran

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Credits: Planet Labs PBC/AP

Two oil tankers recently seized by Iran are anchored off the coast of one of its key port cities on the strategic Strait of Hormuz, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Oil tankers seized

The photos from Planet Labs PBC showed the Advantage Sweet and the Niovi being just south of Bandar Abbas near a naval base in the port city in Iran’s Hormozgan province Saturday. Their capture represents just the latest ship seizure conducted by Iran amid tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program, though the two ships may have been taken for varied reasons.

Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, staffed by 23 Indians and one Russian, on April 27 as it traveled in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran claimed the vessel had struck another ship, though tracking data for the Advantage Sweet showed no erratic behavior on its trip. Iran has made claims in the past over ship seizures to cover for the vessels being taken to use as pawns in negotiations with the West.

The Advantage Sweet carried Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California, at the time of its capture. And its seizure comes as another tanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude disappeared from anchorage off Singapore a year after being identified as trying to evade U.S. sanctions.

The Financial Times, as well as the maritime intelligence firm Ambrey, both have reported that ship named Suez Rajan was seized by order of American authorities. U.S. officials and those associated with the Suez Rajan have not responded to questions about the tanker’s disappearance while on a westward path.

Oil smuggling network

Satellite images showed a second ship, the Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker, which was seized by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday as it left a dry dock in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bound for Fujairah on the UAE’s eastern coast. While not carrying any cargo, data from S&P Global Market Intelligence seen by the AP showed the Niovi in July 2020 received oil from a ship known then as the Oman Pride.

The U.S. Treasury in August 2021 sanctioned the Oman Pride and others associated with the vessel over it being “involved in an international oil smuggling network” that supported the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of the Revolutionary Guard that operates across the Mideast.

Separately, purported emails published online by Wikiran, a website that solicits leaked documents from the Islamic Republic, suggest that cargo carried by the Niovi was sold on to firms in China without permission.

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Source: AP News