Two oil tankers recently seized by Iran are anchored off the coast of one of its key port cities on the strategic Strait of Hormuz, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press on Sunday.
The photos from Planet Labs PBC showed the Advantage Sweet and the Niovi being just south of Bandar Abbas near a naval base in the port city in Iran’s Hormozgan province on Saturday.
Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet on April 27 as it traveled in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran claimed the vessel had struck another ship, though tracking data for the Advantage Sweet showed no erratic behavior on its trip.
Satellite images showed the second ship, the Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker, which 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. While not carrying any cargo, data from S&P Global Market Intelligence seen by the AP showed the Niovi in July 2020 received oil from a ship known then as the Oman Pride, according to AP.
The seizures of the two tankers were 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.
Iran recently said it had "forced" a US submarine to surface as it was crossing the Strait of Hormuz.