Sunday, April 30, 2023

4/28 FT  US seizure of oil vessel triggered Iran tanker capture

Authorities in US redirected ship of Iranian oil bound for China in recent days, prompting retaliation from Tehran

US authorities ordered a tanker of Iranian crude oil to redirect towards the US in recent days, in a move officials believe was the trigger for Iran’s decision to capture a US-bound tanker on Thursday.

Three people briefed on the situation said the US had intervened to summon a ship loaded with Iranian crude, originally destined for China, as Washington looks to step up enforcement of sanctions on Tehran. Iran’s navy unsuccessfully tried to pursue the tanker after it began its latest journey.

The people said the US Department of Justice seized the tanker, the Suez Rajan, under a court order with co-operation from at least one company involved with the vessel. The Suez Rajan has been the subject of scrutiny since it was accused last year of taking on board a cargo of Iranian oil, then intended for China, from another ship near Singapore. The DoJ declined to comment.

The previously unreported US action towards the Suez Rajan shines a new light on Iran’s decision to capture the Advantage Sweet, a US-bound tanker of Kuwaiti crude that was chartered by Chevron.

A US official said Thursday’s “seizure appears to be in retaliation for a prior US seizure of Iranian oil, which Iran recently attempted to get back but failed”.

Iran has a history of seizing tankers in retaliation for western countries targeting its crude oil shipments. In 2019, Iran seized two British-flagged tankers shortly after the UK impounded an Iranian vessel that had stopped at Gibraltar en route to Syria. Last year, Iran also took two Greek-flagged vessels in the Strait of Hormuz after Greece had allowed the US to drain the cargo of an Iranian tanker in Greek waters.

From Tom Stevenson of the LRB "There's no global empire, but..." 

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