satellite imagery analyzed by the agency PA show two oil tankers recently detained for Iran off the coast of one of its main ports in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Images from Planet Labs PBC show the Advantage Sweet and the Niovi anchored on Saturday just south of Bandar Abbas, near a naval base in the port city in Iran’s Hormozgan province.. Iran has interdicted other ships in the past as part of its tensions with the West over its nuclear program, although it appeared those two ships might have been detained for other reasons.
Iran detained the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet on April 27, traveling with a crew of 23 Indians and one Russian through the Gulf of Oman. Tehran claimed that the vessel had collided with another ship, although location data from the Advantage Sweet did not show erratic movements on its voyage. Iran has accused other ships of violations before as a cover to use the vessels as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.
When it was captured, the Advantage Sweet was carrying Kuwaiti crude for US energy giant Chevron Corp., of San Ramon, California. And his arrest came after another tanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude disappeared from his anchorage near Singapore, a year after it was identified as trying to evade US sanctions.
The Niovi, a Panama-flagged oil tanker, was intercepted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a paramilitary group, as it left a dry port in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bound for Fujairah, on the east coast of the UAE. Although she was not carrying any cargo, S&P Global Market Intelligence data seen by AP showed that in July 2020 she received oil from a ship then known as the Oman Pride.
The US Treasury in August 2021 charged Oman Pride and others associated with the ship with being “involved in an international oil smuggling ring” in support of the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of the Revolutionary Guards that operated throughout Middle East.
On the other hand, alleged emails published online by Wikiran, a website that requests leaked documents from the Islamic republic, suggest that the cargo Niovi was carrying had been sold without permission to firms in China.
United Against a Nuclear Iran, a group that monitors Iranian crude shipments subject to sanctions, “strongly suspects that the capture of the Niovi is related to a dispute over an Iranian oil shipment”said Claire Jungman, the organization’s chief of staff. Iran has said it stopped the Niovi on an unspecified court order in Tehran.
Niovi’s administrators did not return repeated calls for comment. The Greek Coast Guard has said the Niovi had crew members from Greece, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
(with information from AP)
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