The U.S. Navy said Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday amid wider tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet identified the vessel as the Advantage Sweet. Satellite tracking data for the vessel from MarineTraffic.com showed it in the Gulf of Oman just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Thursday afternoon. It had just come from Kuwait and listed its destination as Houston, Texas.
“The oil tanker issued a distress call during the seizure,” the 5th Fleet said. “Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. Iran should immediately release the oil tanker.”
The vessel’s owners could not be immediately reached for comment. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thursday’s seizure by Iran was the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions to roil a region that includes the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes.
The incidents began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Also, the U.S. Navy has blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.
Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region’s volatile waters. Tanker seizures have been a part of it since 2019.