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Satellite images show oil tankers seized by Iran off Bandar Abbas


Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press on Sunday show two oil tankers recently seized by Iran off one of its main port cities on the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Photos from Planet Labs PBC showed the Advantage Sweet and the Niovi anchored just south of Bandar Abbas near a naval base in the port city of Iran’s Hormozgan province on Saturday. Their capture represents just the latest ship seizure by Iran amid tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear programme, although it appears the two ships were captured for different reasons.

Iran on April 27 seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, staffed by 23 Indians and a Russian, while it was traveling in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran claimed the ship struck another vessel, although tracking data from the Advantage Sweet showed no erratic behavior during its voyage. Iran has made claims in the past over ship seizures to cover ships used as pawns in negotiations with the West.

The Advantage Sweet was carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for US energy company Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California, at the time of his capture. And its seizure comes as another tanker carrying Iranian crude disappeared from anchorage off Singapore a year after it was identified as trying to evade US sanctions.

The Financial Times, as well as maritime intelligence firm Ambrey, both reported that the vessel named Suez Rajan was seized on the orders of US authorities. US officials and those associated with the Suez Rajan did not respond to questions about the tanker’s disappearance as it headed west.

The Niovi, a Panamanian-flagged tanker, was seized by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday as it left a dry dock in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bound for Fujairah on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates . While carrying no cargo, the data of S&P Global Market Intelligence seen by the AP showed the Niovi in ​​July 2020 received oil from a vessel then known as Oman Pride.

In August 2021, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Oman Pride and others associated with the ship for being “involved in an international oil smuggling ring” that supported Quds Force, the Guardians of the Sea expeditionary unit. the revolution operating across the Middle East.

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

United Against a Nuclear Iran, which has tracked Tehran-sanctioned crude shipments, “strongly suspects that the seizure of the Niovi is related to a dispute over an Iranian oil shipment,” said Claire Jungman, the organization’s chief of staff. . Iran said it seized the Niovi on an unspecified order from a court in Tehran.

Niovi officials did not respond to repeated phone calls for comment. The Greek Coast Guard said the Niovi was staffed by Greek, Filipino and Sri Lankan sailors.


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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.