Title: Suspicious Boarding of Oil Tanker Raises Concerns of Iranian Involvement
In a concerning development in the Gulf of Oman, an oil tanker was reportedly boarded by unauthorized individuals in military uniforms in the early hours of Thursday morning. The vessel, once known as the Suez Rajan, was at the center of a yearlong dispute between Iran and the United States, adding further suspicion to Iran’s involvement in this incident.
Amid recent attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea, concerns have grown about potential retaliatory strikes by US-led forces. The boarding of this tanker only adds to these concerns, as Iran is widely believed to be the responsible party.
The tanker had been off the coast of Basra, Iraq, while loading crude oil destined for Aliaga, Turkey. The British military’s advisory group received a report from the ship’s security manager, who claimed to have heard unknown voices over the phone. Additionally, private security firm Ambrey reported that six military men boarded the ship and covered the surveillance cameras.
Satellite-tracking data further revealed that the tanker changed course and headed towards the port of Bandar-e Jask in Iran. Previously associated with the Greek shipping company Empire Navigation, the vessel first drew attention in February 2022 when suspicions arose that it was carrying oil from Iran’s Khargh Island. As part of a Justice Department order, the tanker discharged its cargo to another vessel in August. Empire Navigation later pleaded guilty to smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil in September.
While Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency acknowledged the boarding incident, it refrained from providing further details. Notably, similar incidents have occurred in the waters surrounding the Strait of Hormuz, with Iran being attributed to ship seizures and assaults on shipping. In the Red Sea, Houthi rebels have also targeted ships, while an Iranian cargo vessel suspected of being a spying platform recently left the waterway.
The boarding of the oil tanker demonstrates the ongoing tensions and risks prevalent in the Middle East waterways. The incident is a reminder of the fragile situation and the potential for further escalations in the region. As investigations continue, the international community will closely monitor developments to ensure the security and safety of commercial maritime operations in the area.