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Iran Seizes Third Oil Tanker As U.S. Boosts Military Presence

Iran has seized yet another oil tanker bringing the tally to three tankers seized in the space of just 19 days as tensions in the Persian Gulf heat up. The tanker in question is said to be an Iranian oil tanker that had been seized by a foreign company five years ago, according to state-run IRNA news agency, which describes the seizure as the reclamation of that previously seized Iranian tanker.

“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,” Mojtaba Qahremani, head of the justice department in Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan, was quoted as saying.

According to the Tehran Times, the 10,000-ton oil tanker Purity returned to Iranian territorial waters following a court order and a joint operation by the Intelligence Ministry and IRGC Navy.

The Bahrain-based U.S. fleet continues to monitor the situation in the Persian Gulf. 

Over the past two years, Iran has attacked, interfered with or harassed the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged commercial vessels, U.S. officials have revealed. 

Late last month, Iran’s state television showed footage of the country’s navy commandos in a helicopter operation boarding the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Advantage Sweet. The Turkish-operated, Chinese-owned tanker was reportedly bound for Houston, Texas carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX). Iran claimed that the tanker collided with an unidentified Iranian vessel hours prior to its seizure, with several crew members reportedly falling overboard while others were left injured. The tanker then fled the scene and ignored radio calls for eight hours before a court ordered its seizure.

The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet had termed Iran’s actions a violation of international law and has called on Tehran to immediately release the seized tankers.

Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it said, adding this was at least the fifth commercial vessel seized by the Islamic state in two years.

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By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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