Two oil tankers seized by Iran have been spotted off the coast of one of the country’s key port cities on the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Satellite images show the Advantage Sweet and Niovi tankers anchored near a naval base south of the city of Bandar Abbas in Iran‘s Hormozgan province.
It is the most recent ship seizure conducted by Iran amid tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear programme, though it appears the two ships may have been taken for different reasons.
Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, staffed by 23 Indians and one Russian, on 27 April as it travelled in the Gulf of Oman.
Tehran claimed the ship had hit another vessel, but tracking data for the Advantage Sweet showed no unusual actions on its trip.
The ship was carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron when it was captured.
Iran has made similar claims in the past to cover for the vessels being taken to use as pawns in negotiations with the West.
Meanwhile, the Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker, was seized by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday as it left a dry dock in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bound for Fujairah on the UAE’s eastern coast.
United Against a Nuclear Iran, which has tracked sanctioned crude shipments by Tehran, “strongly suspects the seizure of the Niovi is related to a dispute over a shipment of Iranian oil,” said Claire Jungman, the chief of staff of the organisation.
Iran has said it seized the Niovi over an unspecified court order in Tehran.
The Greek Coast Guard has said the Niovi was staffed by Greek, Filipino and Sri Lankan sailors.