May 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Seizes Second Tanker Within Week

May 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Seizes Second Tanker Within Week

Latest Developments

Iranian forces seized a Panamanian-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on May 3, just six days after taking another vessel sailing toward the United States. The empty tanker Niovi was traversing the strait after leaving Dubai following repairs, heading towards the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast-attack craft swarmed the vessel in the early morning and ordered it to reverse course toward Iranian territorial waters.

Over the past two years, Iran has attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally-flagged merchant vessels — and now seized at least six — according to a May 3 statement from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea. “Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible, and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the Fifth Fleet said in its statement.

Expert Analysis

“Iran’s continued threats to civilian maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters are born of the impression that such behavior is relatively cost-free. Unless Washington steps up both sanctions enforcement and freedom of navigation operations in the maritime domain against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran is unlikely to abandon course.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Tehran is testing Western resolve, and the right response is to call Iran’s bluff — stepping up freedom of navigation operations and challenging Iranian attempts to seize more ships. Iran knows it cannot win an escalation game in this domain.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

History of Attacks and Seizures

Iran has been threatening commercial shipping in the region for years. The Niovi is the second vessel seized by Iran after its naval forces seized the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Advantage Sweet, which was on its way to deliver oil to Houston, Texas, on April 27. In May 2019, Iran used mines to damage Saudi Arabian, Norwegian, and Emirati tankers near Fujairah Port. In June 2019, mines likely planted by Tehran damaged Japanese and Norwegian tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that same year, detaining the ship and crew members for over two months.

In January 2021, Iranian forces seized the South Korean tanker MT Hankuk Chemi near the UAE coast. Iran released the ship and its captain four months later. In July 2021, an Iranian drone off the coast of Oman attacked the MT Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned, Israeli-managed cargo ship, killing two crew members.

In May 2022, Iran seized two Greek oil tankers — the Delta Poseidon and the Prudent Warrior — in the Persian Gulf in response to the U.S. seizure, with Greek assistance, of the Iranian vessel Lana. Iran released the ships in November after lengthy negotiations between Athens and Tehran.

Iran Seizes U.S.-Bound Oil Tanker,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Sends Submarine to Middle East to Counter Iranian Threats to Maritime Trade,” FDD Flash Brief

To Stop Iran’s Proxy Terrorists, Stop Iran,” by Bradley Bowman, Joe Truzman, and Ryan Brobst


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel