According to satellite images from The Associated Press on Sunday, two oil tankers that Iran recently captured are anchored off the coast of one of its important port cities on the Strait of Hormuz.
The Advantage Sweet and the Niovi were photographed by Planet Labs PBC on Saturday just south of Bandar Abbas, close to a naval facility in the port city of Iran’s Hormozgan region.
Although the two ships may have been kidnapped for different reasons, their arrest signals only the latest ship seizure carried out by Iran amid tensions with the West over its quickly developing nuclear program.
On April 27, Iran took control of the Advantage Sweet, a vessel flying the Marshall Islands flag and crewed by 23 Indians and one Russian.
Although tracking information for the Advantage Sweet showed no unusual behavior on its journey, Tehran claimed the ship had struck another ship. Iran has in the past claimed to have seized ships to cover up the fact that it had stolen the ships to use as bargaining chips with the West.
At its arrest, Advantage Sweet transported Kuwaiti crude oil for the American energy company Chevron Corp. of San Ramon,
California. Additionally, a year after being recognized as attempting to circumvent U.S. sanctions, another tanker thought to be transporting Iranian petroleum vanished from mooring off Singapore, prompting its arrest.
The Financial Times and the marine intelligence company Ambrey have reported that the Suez Rajan was impounded on American officials’ orders.
Questions regarding the Suez Rajan tanker’s disappearance while traveling westward have received no responses from American officials or anyone connected to the Suez Rajan.
The Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker, was captured by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday as it departed a dry dock in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on its way to Fujairah on the eastern coast of the UAE, according to satellite pictures.
Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence obtained by the AP showed that the Niovi in July 2020 received oil from a ship then known as the Oman Pride, despite not carrying any cargo.
The Oman Pride and others connected to the ship were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in August 2021 because they were “involved in an international oil smuggling network” that backed the Quds Force, an expeditionary division of the Revolutionary Guard that operates throughout the Middle East.
Separately, alleged communications made public online by Wikiran, a website that requests stolen papers from the Islamic Republic, imply that the Niovi’s cargo was illegally sold to companies in China.
The organization United Against a Nuclear Iran, which has monitored Tehran’s sanctioned petroleum shipments, “strongly suspects the seizure of the Niovi is related to a dispute over a shipment of Iranian oil,” according to Claire Jungman, the organization’s chief of staff.
According to Iran, it seized the Niovi in response to an unnamed Tehran court ruling.
Numerous calls to the Niovi’s managers seeking comment went unanswered. According to the Greek Coast Guard, the Niovi was reportedly manned by Greek, Filipino, and Sri Lankan sailors.