Middle EastTankers

Iran accused of taking over tanker off Khorfakkan

Iranian special forces stand accused once again of taking a foreign commercial vessel hostage.

The US military published a video yesterday showing special forces descending from a helicopter to take over the Wila, a Liberian-flagged 8,055 dwt product tanker.

The ship was taken over for a few hours before the armed team departed.

Ambrey Risk, a maritime security firm, detailed how the incident unfolded. Ambrey understands the operation took place while the vessel was inside Iranian waters. After an Iranian patrol craft ordered the tanker to stop, Iranian naval personnel boarded the vessel from a Sea King helicopter. The vessel was not taken towards Iran but subsequently sailed towards Khorfakkan under a UAE naval escort. 

Security consultants Dryad Global suggested the Wila may have been targeted as a result of a previous linkage to Greek companies that were sanctioned by the US in June for their intended involvement in an Iranian oil shipment to Venezuela.

“In targeting this vessel, Iran has potentially sought to send a clear message to vessels which decide to renege on their willingness to partake in, or facilitate, economic activities linked to the nation. Iran sees this issue as one of legitimacy, and Tehran would assert that its trading with Venezuela is open, transparent and does not break international law. Iran views US sanctions as an act of aggression, and those who backtrack due to the fear of sanctioning themselves as being complicit in maintaining this status quo,” Dryad Global posited on its website.

Tensions in and around the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the West have been high for the past two years with a string of incidents including kidnappings and bombings.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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