The Iranian Revolutionary Guard seizes a merchant ship in the Gulf

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “forcibly seized” a commercial vessel in international waters in the Gulf on Thursday, a U.S. Navy spokesman said, and that the vessel may have been involved in smuggling.

US Fifth Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins said the US Navy had monitored the situation and decided not to make any further response.

British maritime security company Ambry said it was aware of an attempt by Iranian forces to seize a small tanker flying the Tanzanian flag, about 59 nautical miles northeast of the Saudi port city of Dammam.

“Iran regularly intercepts small tankers suspected of smuggling oil,” the company added in a note.

About a fifth of the world’s supply of seaborne crude oil and petroleum products passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the choke point between Iran and Oman, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.

The US Navy said on Wednesday it had intervened to prevent Iran from seizing two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman, in the latest series of attacks on ships in the area since 2019.

“US forces remain vigilant and ready to protect the rights of navigation for lawful maritime traffic in the vital waters of the Middle East,” Hawkins said.

Iran said on Thursday that it had a court order to detain a tanker sailing in Gulf waters on Wednesday after it collided with an Iranian vessel. The vessel, the Bahamas-flagged Richmond Voyager, was operated by the US oil giant Chevron.

Tehran seized two more tankers in May, including the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, which was chartered by Chevron.

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The US Navy said this week that since 2021, Iran has “harassed, attacked, or seized approximately 20 internationally-flagged commercial vessels.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens)

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