Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)
Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)iStock

Iran’s navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday amid wider tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press reported.

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, according to the report.

The Advantage Sweet issued a distress call at 1:15 p.m. while in international waters as Iran seized the vessel, the Navy said.

“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran should immediately release the oil tanker.”

The Navy initially said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the vessel, but an American naval aircraft later confirmed that Iran’s navy captured the ship, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins told The Associated Press.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the seizure came after an “unknown ship collided with an Iranian vessel last night in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and get injured.” It did not identify the other ship involved in the alleged collision.

The Advantage Sweet had been in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, but its track showed no unusual behavior as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz, according to AP.

Iran has made allegations in other seizures that later fell apart as it became clear Tehran was trying to leverage the capture as a chip to negotiate with foreign nations.

The 5th Fleet said the Iranian seizure was at least the fifth commercial vessel taken by Tehran in the last two years.

The incident is the latest in a string of Iranian hijackings and explosions in the region.

The US Navy has blamed Iran for a series of 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.

The Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, has often been a site of tense encounters between Americans and Iranian forces.

In early December, an Iranian patrol boat tried to temporarily blind US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by shining a spotlight toward the vessels and crossing within 150 yards of them.

Last August, an Iranian ship seized an American military unmanned research vessel in the Gulf but released it after a US Navy patrol boat and helicopter were deployed to the location.

Two months earlier, three vessels controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) buzzed two American ships at what the US military called “dangerously high speed”.

The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.