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Source: Seatrade Maritime

May 15, 2023

Iran seizes third tanker, US boosting military presence

Iran has detained a third tanker in the space of 19 days, as the confrontation over the control of maritime assets in the Persian Gulf heats up.

BY Peter Shaw-Smith

"An Iranian oil tanker, which was seized by a foreign company five years ago, has been returned to the Islamic country in an operation by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)," state news agency IRNA said on Friday.

On Saturday, the Tehran Times cited reports from Iranian news agency Tasnim to say that the 10,000-ton oil tanker Purity had returned to Iranian territorial waters as a result of a court order and a joint operation by the IRGC Navy and Intelligence Ministry, according to Mojtaba Qahremani, head of the justice department in Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan.

“The seized 10,000-ton oil tanker Purity had been illegally leased to a foreigner by falsifying documents since 2018 and its Iranian owners were deprived of the benefits of the oil tanker,” Qahremani was quoted as saying.

In contrast to earlier seizures by Iran, which appeared to have been limited to disputes over the cargoes on board vessels, the Islamic Republic implied the capture of the Purity involved the restitution of Iranian property to its rightful owners.

The Bahrain-based US fleet has continued to monitor the situation in the Persian Gulf.

"The Department of Defense will be making a series of moves to bolster our defensive posture in the Arabian Gulf," White House spokesperson John Kirby told a news briefing on Friday, according to Reuters.

In the past two years, Iran has harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged commercial vessels, US officials were quoted as saying.

“Following a judicial order and close cooperation between the IRGC Navy and Intelligence Ministry, the oil tanker was finally identified and confiscated in the Persian Gulf waters earlier this month,” Qahremani added.

The Tehran Times said the ship docked in Iran’s Assaluyeh Port on the Persian Gulf’s westernmost coast to have its fuel consignments unloaded.

Late in October, forces from the IRGC’s first naval zone captured a foreign tanker ship carrying 11 million gallons of illegal fuel in the Persian Gulf, the publication said. “The Islamic Republic has said unequivocally that the Persian Gulf would never be a safe haven for smugglers.”

In 1986, a series of missile and other attacks on Gulf-bound tanker shipping led to a surge in insurance rates for tanker owners, and the creation of a new bunkering hub in Fujairah, as the UAE cashed in on the agglomeration of shipping at anchor outside the Strait of Hormuz in order to avoid the conflict.

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